MLA Adrian Dix (left) joins St. Mary's parishioners Mildred Moy and Richard Lange as they present a petition with 1,800 signatures to the City of Vancouver.

B.C. Catholic Photo | Agnieska Krawczynski

MLA Adrian Dix (left) joins St. Mary's parishioners Mildred Moy and Richard Lange as they present a petition with 1,800 signatures to the City of Vancouver.

January 25, 2016
AGNIESZKA KRAWCZYNSKI
THE B. C. CATHOLIC

A proposed marijuana dispensary has members of St. Mary's Parish in Vancouver worried about the impact on their community.

More than 1,800 signed a petition asking the City of Vancouver to not approve the Scooter Health Society's application to sell the drug at 3441 Kingsway.

"This is something that is really in my heart," said Mildred Moy, the head of St. Mary's street ministry, who launched the petition.

"We encounter a lot of people in addiction," and marijuana is a gateway drug that can lead to other abuses, Moy said.

"A friend of mine is a medical marijuana user, and even she signed the petition. Both of us agree that medical marijuana should be sold in pharmacies and should go through (government) approval to ensure safety for those using it as medicine."

The petition, which gained 1,500 signatures in one weekend, cites several concerns with the proposed marijuana dispensary location.

The Kingsway site, a short walk from the church, is 400 metres from Carleton Elementary School. While this is acceptable under city regulations, which state dispensaries must be at least 300 metres from schools, some parishioners believe it is still too close.

The petition also points out the suggested marijuana store would be 100 metres from a karate centre that runs children's programs and within 300 metres of a proposed child care centre.

Parishioner Richard Lange signed the petition. "We know how serious addictions can be and how devastating on family and friends it can be," he said.

SHOULD BE ILLEGAL

Lange works with Luke 15 House, a transition house for men with addictions, and said if he had his way, marijuana would not be legal.

The petition has the support of St. Mary's Parish priests and of Adrian Dix, NDP MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway.

Dix said this petition is not about whether medical marijuana should be legalized.

"They can't change the federal law. That's not at issue here," he said. "The city can't control whether it's legal or not."

Most rejected

The City of Vancouver required all marijuana businesses, including existing ones, to apply for a licence by August 2015. To date, it has turned down 124 applications and approved 11, subject to neighbourhood consultation.

"They decided to license a limited number of businesses, then use their powers to shut down the vast majority," Dix said. "It was actually a fairly imaginative way to bring sense to the situation."

The number of licensed marijuana-related businesses on Kingsway has been whittled down from 20 to three, though not all unapproved locations have closed their doors. "There are more dispensaries on Kingsway than pharmacies," he said.

It's not the first time churchgoers at St. Mary's have spoken up about what goes on in their neighbourhood. About seven years ago, a liquor store was to open two blocks from the church.

ADDICTION ISSUES

"As a community, we said no to that," Dix said. "Liquor is a legal product, but that doesn't mean that the legalization is the end of the discussion about how we deal with these issues, issues with addiction, and the challenges facing people."

The city listened and the liquor store was not allowed to open.