Exploring Marijuana Laws in Vancouver

 

By Alex: As former residents of Amsterdam, we’re accustomed to the notion of “tolerated” marijuana and “coffee shops.” But on our recent visit to Vancouver we were a little surprised to encounter North American coffee shops and pot dispensaries. Given California has had medical marijuana for several years and Colorado and Washington state recently legalized recreational marijuana, I was curious to examine what the cannabis laws in British Columbia were like. For journalistic purposes only, I decided to explore this phenomenon a little further.

The Green Panda cannabis dispensary, in downtown Vancouver, was a short walk from where we were staying on beautiful Coal Harbor, which I stumbled upon by chance while strolling for a lunch spot. Appropriately, a delicious Belgium Waffle shop operates right next to Green Panda and a Dutch pancake shop sits just a couple businesses down. Upon entering, I was greeted with the aroma of fresh marijuana and a friendly shop assistant behind the counter.

 

A Vancouver Cannabis shop + a neighbouring Belgian waffle shop = stars aligned.
A Belgian waffle shop is well suited next to Green Panda cannabis dispensary.

“So how does this work? Do I need a prescription for marijuana?” I asked. “No. All you need is proof that you take medication for anxiety or a number of other conditions from either a doctor or a holistic healer” said the chipper assistant. She then handed me a form with a long list of conditions ranging from cancer treatment to insomnia and migraines. It became immediately clear that the setup was pretty grey. “Does the note or medication bottle need to be from a Canadian doctor?” I asked. “No, proof from an American doctor works too” she replied.

Where to Stay in Vancouver?

Coal Harbour in Vancouver, steps from the Westin Bayshore Vancouver.

We absolutely loved our stay at the Westin Bayshore Vancouver. The views of picturesque Stanley Park are fantastic, so request rooms facing Stanley Park!

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver offers old world luxury charm in Vancouver. Their breakfast buffet is also fantastic. We preferred our stay at the Westin Bayshore, but also enjoyed the Fairmont.

Families and budget travelers will likely find the best value on Airbnb. If you’ve never used Airbnb, sign up here for free and receive $40 credit off your first stay! Just be sure to book properties that have consistently good reviews.

Exploring Marijuana Laws in Vancouver Continued

I spoke with the assistant at Green Panda for about 10 minutes and she informed me that they just opened in July, 2014 and that dispensaries had been in operation in Vancouver since 2010. “We have a heroine problem in this city and in order to protect users from contracting hepatitis or HIV there are clinics that teach users how to inject cleanly. The clinics basically set up everything but the injections. So cannabis dispensaries are small potatoes as long as we operate respectably, meaning you need to have a chronic condition that marijuana can treat- you show photo ID and we provide you with a membership card.”

 

Cannabis in Vancouver, BC
Along with a wide variety of fresh indica and sativa buds, Green Panda offered an assortment of edible baked goods like cupcakes and profiteroles. Since the visit was for research purposes only (and I didn’t have a doctors note), I walked out empty handed. As I explored more of Vancouver, I also randomly encountered the New Amsterdam Cafe, in the historic Gastown district. I didn’t go inside, but unlike the Green Panda dispensary, there were tables for people to smoke their weed, most of which were occupied. And with dozens of marijuana dispensaries, Vancouver has indeed become a “New Amsterdam,” or “Vansterdam,” as some like to call it. As the Vancouver Sun reported in September, in Mike Hager’s ‘undercover investigation’, he had no problem scoring cannabis for little medical reason (which I’m sure was strictly in the name of good journalism).

 

The 'New Amsterdam Cafe' in Vancouver goes beyond being a cannabis dispensary, with table seating.
The ‘New Amsterdam Cafe’ in Vancouver goes beyond being a cannabis dispensary, with table seating for pot smoking.

 

If you’re visiting Vancouver and have virtually any medical condition (say foot pain from wearing high heals), stop in and check out the dispensaries, prices are very reasonable. Baked goods cost $6 Canadian ($5 US) and on Tuesdays, Green Panda offers a buy 1 get 1 free on their cannabis edibles. Pre-rolled joints range from $4-$10 and grams run from $10-$14. The shop runs a different daily special and on Thursdays (the day I visited), it was a free gram when you purchased a larger amount. It was interesting to see marijuana sales run on a North American business model because the concepts of buy 1 get 1 free and bonus grams would sparsely exist in Dutch coffee shops.

 

Recreational marijuana use is technically still illegal in Vancouver and apparently another reason the government isn’t cracking down on the dispensaries is that there was a complaint by many patients with serious medical conditions about easy access to marijuana. So if a dispensary sells cannabis for no ambiguous medical reason, and the government catches them, they can shut their doors. With the prevalence of prescriptions for pain, anxiety and sleeplessness in the USA and given cannabis actually helps people with serious chronic conditions, it’s high time for some grey times in other states and provinces in North America. Better luck in 2016 Florida.

 

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3 thoughts on “Exploring Marijuana Laws in Vancouver

    1. It’s been many years since we’ve been to Ontario but we know the Ontario government is quite conservative when it comes to alcohol sales as well.

  1. Great article that really summarizes the lax attitude here in Vancouver.

    We operate Vancouver’s first online medical and recreational marijuana delivery service. Free delivery in under an hour for premium product at affordable prices. http://herbaldispatch.com

    We have gone to City Hall, the VPD and spent hours discussing what we’re doing as we want to be open and transparent. Vancouver’s stance is that the mayor and council are pro-pot and want to force the issue with the feds so the laws can be changed and they can be regulated. That they can’t shut down a dispensary for selling recreationally as they’d probably have to shut most of them down. So they say that as long as we’re not a public nuisance, they won’t do anything and to stay tuned for regulation down the road.

    We love Vancouver!

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