Staff urge 'wellness centres'

Staff with the City of Penticton is standing by its recommendation to end the city's licensing program for a pair of marijuana dispensaries in the city.

Earlier this month, council punted the decision on the issue after hearing from the owners of Okanagan Cannabinoid Therapy and Green Essence, the two shops they granted temporary permits to back in December.

Staff are recommending council pull the plug on the licensing program, and work with the dispensaries to shift to a “wellness centre” model, similar to how many compassion clubs operate around the province.

At the July 4 meeting, city manager Peter Weeber noted that the operating dispensaries have a “risk tolerance” the city cannot have, implying the pot shops could continue to operate without the blessing of the city, and take their chances with the RCMP.

A staff report going to council on Tuesday states the “wellness centre” recommendation would help end two “costly legal actions” involving Jukka Laurio’s Herbal Green Apothecary. The city filed for an injunction to stop Laurio from operating without a business license, while Laurio responded with lawsuit over the city’s decision to not grant him an operating permit.

“Herbal Green will be offered a formal offer to conclude the legal actions without further costs by entering into a consent order as a wellness centre,” the report states. “The staff recommendation maintains a consistent approach with all three dispensaries.”

At the request of council on July 4, staff also gathered more information on what kind of liability the current licensing program leaves the city open to.

The report states the city’s insurance provider could not provide a “clear cut answer to the question about whether” the city’s insurance would cover an instance of person falling ill due to marijuana purchased at a licensed dispensary.

“It was suggested that should an incident occur, in all likelihood the city may be covered for negligence, however it is as uncertain given depending on how the case is brought forward against the city,” the staff report continues. “Although the risk may be low, the consequence of an unfortunate event would be high.”

The dispensaries involved said July 4 they would produce a copy of their insurance policy, but the city did not receive them by the time the report was published on Friday.

It is expected all seven councillors will be present for the decision on Tuesday.

Councillors Helena Konanz, Campbell Watt and to some extent, Andre Martin, expressed interest in terminating the licensing program. Max Picton and Tarik Sayeed spoke in support of the dispensaries, while mayor Andrew Jakubeit took no clear stance. Judy Sentes was not present at the July 4 meeting.

The council meeting begins at 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

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