Vancouver's illegal marijuana dispensaries ordered to shut down

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More than two dozen illegal cannabis dispensaries in Vancouver will have to close their doors, the B.C. Supreme Court has ruled.

The decision announced Thursday applies to all dispensaries named in a suit brought by the City of Vancouver.

So far, 53 injunctions have been filed against marijuana-related businesses operating outside the city's regulations. The city said in a statement that some closed prior to the case being heard in court, but the remaining 28 will now have to cease operations.

Owners who do not close down can face court-ordered fines, jail time or both, the city said.

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Many have already been fined by the city, but have said previously that they planned to ignore the stack of unpaid tickets which can be for amounts as high as $1,000 a day. 

Vancouver's general manager for development, buildings and licensing said the court's verdict affirms the city's authority over land use and confirms it was within its jurisdiction during the crackdown that began three years ago.

"It also signals that any cannabis retail store operating outside city regulations can and will be enforced against using all the tools at the city's disposal to the fullest extent moving forward," Kaye Krishna said.

Despite the order, at least one business owner says he plans to defy the court order.

"We will not be closing our doors and expect there will be a lot of dispensaries in Vancouver and across Canada that will be continuing to stay open," Vancouver Dispensary Society owner and cannabis activist Dana Larsen told CTV News.

"There's a shortage of legal cannabis in Canada and right now there's hardly any stores open."

He said his dispensary and others supply those who need cannabis for medical reasons, and that he suspects the court's decision will be appealed.

The city will be developing an enforcement strategy for those that do not comply with the order. Officials did not say when action could be expected, but the decision does allow the possibility raids and arrests at the dispensaries.

Those who do wish to operate legally must, as of October, obtain both provincial and municipal licences, and a Vancouver development permit for cannabis retail use.

In the last three months, Vancouver has received notification of 14 applications for provincial licences. Nine have been issued development permits, the first step in opening a legal cannabis dispensary.

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