Good evening. Thank you for the opportunity to speak. My name is Kirk Tousaw of the Tousaw Law Corporation and I practice law almost exclusively in the area of cannabis and medicinal cannabis access and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I represent several dispensaries in Vancouver and across Canada. My Vancouver clients have been operating safely, responsibly and compassionately for, in some instances, many years. These brave persons have put their liberty at risk in order to provide critically and chronically ill Canadians safe access to medicinal cannabis and medicinal cannabis derivatives. Many have  laid the groundwork for responsible operation of medicinal cannabis dispensaries not just in Vancouver but across North America.

I commend the city for its leadership in bringing regulation to this area, a responsibility that our federal government has thus far failed to address. I’m also counsel in various matters before the courts involving the Charter and access to cannabis medicine, including the Smith case involving edible and other derivative medicine. That case will be decided tomorrow by the Supreme Court of Canada.

I will make two primary points, related to access to derivative products and the impact of the bylaw on existing responsible providers.

On edibles, I urge the council to adopt the approach generally used in other jurisdictions such as Colorado and Washington. That approach is to reasonably regulate, not prohibit, these products. We know that prohibition causes harm and that reasonable regulation promoted public health. Food safe requirement, labelling and child proof containers promote health. The proposal to ban edible products other than cooking oils will not a over the purported goals – in fact it is likely to cause the opposite results.

On existing dispensaries with a solid track record; many of these will be forced to close or relocate as a result of the location restriction. That is neither fair nor desirable, because these locations have demonstrated a history of responsible operation and newer businesses have not. I urge council to provide some flexibility to allow for relaxing or waiving the location restrictions in appropriate cases, perhaps on a case by case basis, if the dispensary has local community support and a track record of positive contributions to their local areas.

Thank you for your attention this evening and, again, for Vancouver’s continued leadership in this critical area.

Kirk Tousaw, Barrister
Tousaw Law Corporation