Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s controversial vow to legalize marijuana has not yet been met with support from municipal politicians in the Columbia Valley.
Valley Holistics entrepreneurs Megan and Sarah Karchuk were denied a business licence to open up a medical marijuana dispensary in the Village of Radium Hot Springs at the regular March 9th Radium council meeting because the product has not yet been formally legalized by the Government of Canada.
Mark Read, the Village of Radium Hot Springs chief administrative officer, provided council with information about its legal responsibilities to the community.
“Council has received a legal opinion, which is privileged and confidential, for council’s use,” said Read at the meeting. “It’s basically an advisory document that will assist council in making a decision, so I think it’s in (their) court to make a decision.”
Previously, at the regular February 18th council meeting, the Village of Radium Hot Springs had accepted information about the duo’s plans to apply for a business licence to open up a medical marijuana dispensary.
Radium mayor Clara Reinhardt did not indicate whether she was for or against approving the business licence. However, she encouraged council to discuss the possibility of approving a business venture of this nature before a decision was made at the meeting.
“The information that I have states that the only way medical marijuana can be dispensed is from the Health Canada regulated place where it’s grown, is that correct?” she asked the Karchucks.
Reinhardt then asked the Karchuks if their business was certified by Health Canada. They replied: “No, I think there have only been 25 approved across the country with 11 in production right now.”
Coun. Ron Verboom expressed a strong concern about the risk to the community of approving a business license at this point in time.
“Marijuana is still illegal and my personal opinion is that I think it boils down to that — it’s still illegal and I don’t think that we should be putting the village in any kind of potential legal risks in light of that,” said Verboom. “We have to be patient and wait to see how the federal government is going to come across and handle it from their end.”
However, Larsen promptly challenged Verboom’s opinion and urged council to embrace the transparent sale of marijuana for medical consumption from a prescription-only perspective.
“It’s accessed through prescription, so it is monitored,” she said. “I don’t see a problem with it. From my perspective, I know that other communities including Kimberley have already stepped on board… taking steps towards that is something I see as council taking action to take care of their own health issues through prescriptions.”
She added it was “ludicrous” in her opinion to see medical marijuana distributed through Canada Post in its present form.
“We need to take these steps forward to say that we’re on board because our Prime Minister has already said it’s going to be coming down the wire, so we need to be stepping up to the plate and standing by,” said Larsen. “There are people who are looking to have access and I would much rather see people with licensing going to a medical dispensary like this than going to backdoor operations that already exist in our community and accessing this stuff illegally, and that’s what I would like to see stop. It does exist but if we don’t step up to the plate and say we’re willing to legalize it when (the Karchucks) are willing to take all of the risk, then it’s in their ballpark.”
Coun. Todd Logan expressed a desire against pioneering in the medical marijuana industry until the Government of Canada established a formal process.
“They’re on the sidelines,” Larsen refuted.
“There is no side line,” replied McCauley. “It’s legal or it’s illegal, and it is illegal at the moment. There is no grey area, so maybe it’s OK but the police could come in at any minute.”
“But they haven’t,” Larsen replied to McCauley. “I just don’t want us to be afraid of stepping forward for people who need it… if we already have the federal government looking to legalize it and we have communities standing on the sidelines, we have people that need this medication and we’re looking to stop (backdoor deals) — we have two young women here who are willing to take all of the risk, why wouldn’t we allow them to have a business and see how it goes?”
Coun. Karen Larsen made a motion to approve the Karchuks’ application for a business licence — an action that was met with no support from her peers when Coun. Ron Verboom, Coun. Todd Logan and Coun. Tyler McCauley voted 3-1 against it.