By DUSTIN GODFREY
PENTICTON — City council has doubled down on its position on cannabis dispensaries in the city.
Two more pot shops are losing their business licences as city hall continues to deliberate regulating them.
Council voted in favour of staff recommendations that Green Essence on Martin Street and Avitas Pharmaco on Main Street lose their licences ahead of potential municipal regulations expected to be presented in the coming weeks.
Both votes were 5-2 in favour, with Mayor Andrew Jakubeit and Coun. Tarik Sayeed dissenting.
The votes were held in a full house, which saw applause and disruptions, including two people who were kicked out – one who left peacefully, followed immediately by another who left with a curse-laden rant about the integrity of the city.
Both store operators made their case to keep their business licences.
Avitas owner Robert Kay said his operations in Kelowna and Vernon have “private club” licences.
He said he has a federal Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations licence, however neither Avitas nor his other business, BeKind, appear on the federal government’s list of licencedproducers, cultivators and sellers.
He also said he and his employees hold certificates used in Washington and other states with legalized pot that he likened to a Food Safe certificate for dispensaries.
He estimated about 17,000 people use medical cannabis in the Okanagan, and said the numbers could be 2,500 to 5,000 in the Penticton area.
Owner of Green Essence Melissa Osiowy said she and her partner have been waiting for a federal licence for two years.
While Osiowy told council the shop does not serve minors, Kay differed, saying all ages can be affected by diseases that precipitate the use of medical pot.
“Cancer doesn’t have an age,” he said. “MS doesn’t have an age. Epilepsy doesn’t have an age.”
The decision followed a July 19 meeting at which council voted to cancel the business licence of another pot shop, the Rush In and Finish Cafe.
At that same meeting, council voted to direct staff to consider potential regulations for the city, and return with a report within 60 days of July 19. Monday’s meeting came just short of the halfway mark.
As with the July 19 meeting, Sayeed voted against the cancellations, taking aim at cannabis prohibition.
“Abortion ... was illegal, and same with same-sex marriage,” he said. “It’s illegal because we’re keeping it illegal.”
The other dissenting vote came from Jakubeit, who said cancelling the business licences may put the city in a position of conflict for a short period while they wait to put regulations in place.
“If we had to wait until January to get a staff report, then I probably would go along with cancelling the business licences,” he said. “But the fact that we’re going to be discussing this further in a month’s time, or thereabouts, I’d be happy to sort of continue the status quo.”
Some councillors said they would like to see the shops work together with the city to come up with a set of regulations.
An agreement of the need to act with or without the federal government was reiterated by councillors, with Coun. Helena Konanz expressing frustration with Ottawa “leaving us to dangle” on country-wide guidance or regulations.
Osiowy told council that if council were to cancel her business licence, she would move shop to another city.
Council agreed that the city needs to treat every shop the same, saying it would be unfair to close and fine the Rush In and Finish Cafe, while allowing the business licences of either Green Essence or Avitas to continue.