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.
“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?
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.
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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.”
If you’re visiting Vancouver and have virtually any medical condition (say foot pain from wearing high heals), check out the dispensaries. Prices are very reasonable. 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.
Update: Recreational Marijuana is Legal in Canada
Recreational marijuana is now legal in Vancouver and throughout Canada. Check out online marijuana dispensaries. We recently visited Toronto and were surprised to encounter a shop selling recreational marijuana. Recreational marijuana is legal in more and more US states too. Maybe one day soon it will be federally legal in the United States also, but we’re not there yet.
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