Letter: West Kelowna won’t allow marijuana dispensaries

Mail order providers are not allowed to provide information…because prohibitionists developed this system.

To the editor:

After having attended the April 14 West Kelowna municipal council meeting, I came away disappointed, in that there was a majority vote decision that will make it a little easier for our youth to buy marijuana on our streets and in our parks.

The vote was on an amendment to a municipal bylaw which would disallow the business licensing of medicinal marijuana dispensaries in West Kelowna. On the surface, this might seem reasonable, as these alternative health facilities are not the legally recognized way for patients to receive their medication. However, a closer look at this issue is warranted.

If the underlying goal of this amendment is to curtail the opening of further medical marijuana dispensaries and, ultimately, the closure of the existing ones, this council is doing a disservice to both its’ citizens that view these businesses as a valuable resource for their medical needs and, even more importantly, to the wider community in that this amendment will actually increase unrestricted access to marijuana to minors. It defeats any kind of limiting effect council members might hope to bring about in who has access and, under what circumstances.

These dispensaries have arisen out of federal prohibition policy. Authorized patients had made their preference for a dispensary system known to Health Canada, prior to the implementation of the federal government’s misguided attempt at cobbling together a supply system that neither adequately serves the needs of Canadian patients and continues to apply prohibitionist policies.

Under our current legal access system, a mail order provider is not allowed to provide information regarding the efficacy or use of specific strains. They are not allowed to provide pictures. They are not allowed to provide extracts—many of which are shown to be very beneficial and do not get you high—and, they are not allowed to provide edibles for those patients with breathing problems. That’s because prohibitionists developed this system. They don’t believe in medical marijuana and have been forced to allow for it through court decisions. This proposed amendment only puts a local face to that failed policy.

Denying and, ultimately, closing our dispensaries does nothing to discourage cannabis use in our community. Rather, it forces a return to private residences, parks, bars—anywhere other than a controlled setting. With dispensaries the municipality has, at least, some assurance that there are age and medical restrictions and that the medicine is provided in a known setting, subject to local inspection. This proposal is a step backwards in the effective control and regulation of marijuana in West Kelowna.

There was no compelling reason for this council to act as federal agents, in this matter. Other municipalities have allowed them without federal repercussions. 3 in Kelowna, 5 in Vernon…81 in Vancouver! I reminded the council that, as part of the UBCM, the legalization and regulation of marijuana, including medical marijuana has been endorsed by that body.

None of this seemed to matter, though, so…we’re back to no control over who has access, whatsoever. I would encourage those citizens concerned about putting more pot in the hands of our kids to contact the mayor and council regarding this vote.

Mark Conlin, West Kelowna