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Marijuana dispensary eyed for New Westminster

A group called the West Coast Green Light Society hopes to open the New Innovations in Cannabis Education (N.I.C.E.) Dispensary at 907 12th St. in the near future.

In a Sept. 1 email to the West End Residents Association, Justin Cleveland, president of the society, said he welcomes members of the community to drop by the location with “questions and concerns they may have regarding the dispensary.”

But on Monday, the front door to the squat brick and wood-siding building—which once housed a music studio and then a flower shop for a brief spell—was locked tight, the lights inside off.

Other than the dispensary’s name stenciled in small green lettering on the door, there was no signage. Calls to Cleveland and the dispensary weren’t returned.

The group hasn’t yet applied for a business licence to operate in New Westminster yet, said city licensing manager Keith Coueffin, so the dispensary can’t open.

“The city has become aware of this group’s intention to open at this location,” Coueffin said. “They’ve been advised that they may not operate until applying for and obtaining a business licence.”

Once an application for a licence is received, Coueffin said it will be scrutinized to ensure it complies “with all municipal, provincial and federal legislation.”

The police service would also be consulted regarding the operation, he added.

“It’s also my understanding that the dispensary would not comply with the Criminal Code of Canada.”

If a marijuana dispensary opened on 12th Street, it would be a serious blow to the struggling strip, said Sandy Longridge, who operates Assist-2-Sell Realty on the street.

“The image of the street is already shot,” said Longridge, who’s been operating the realty office with her husband Lyle since 2008.

In that time they’ve become involved with initiatives like the 12th Street Music Festival to try to revive the street, which endured years of street prostitution, petty crime, graffiti and then more than two years of road construction.

“The last thing it needs is a pot store opening up.”

In his email to WERA, Cleveland said he’s “already begun speaking with and informing residents and business owners of 12th Street” and has “received nothing but positive feedback.”

WERA president Elmer Rudolph said he hasn’t heard any specific details about the dispensary but as long as it’s properly operated, he doesn’t have a problem with it.

“If they’re truly going to run an operation on the up and up, they should be quite prepared to alleviate anyone’s concerns,” said Rudolph.

Amber Anderson, the owner of Amber’s Choice and the president of the West End Business Association, said the first she heard of the new venture was when she enquired about the renovations going on to the building, which is located next to her café.

She says the person she spoke to asked if they could circulate information about the dispensary during the 12th Street Music Festival but since then she’s heard nothing.

“It’s very important to build a dialogue,” says Anderson.

The dispensary will be a topic of discussion at the business association’s annual general meeting on Friday, Sept. 21 at the CAW Hall.

In his email, Cleveland said he’s worked closely with similar dispensaries in Maple Ridge and Vancouver “to ensure we follow the standards they have set regarding daily operation and membership processes.”

The website, located at nicedispensary.com states, “We provide quality medicinal cannabis products to legitimate patients with a valid medical need.”

The city’s Keith Coueffin said they are being vigilant, monitoring the 12th Street location to ensure the dispensary does not open before it is given the green light to do so.

Several medical marijuana dispensaries operate in the City of Vancouver, but they haven't fared so well outside city limits. One in Burnaby was raided and shut down last year. In Coquitlam, a facility opened in Maillardville in June, but was shut down just over a month later. The previous June in North Vancouver, a proponent's plan to open a dispensary in Deep Cove was effectively scuttled by North Van District Council.

—files from Chris Bryan

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