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Pot-consumption site merits licence, lawyer tells Victoria city council

The Terp City cannabis lounge in Victoria is “a safe consumption site,” and Victoria’s refusal to issue it a business licence flies in the face of common sense, its lawyer has argued to city councillors.
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Terp City Canna Lounge on Douglas Street has been operating without a licence. It was denied a business licence under VictoriaÕs Cannabis-Related Business Bylaw, which prohibits consumption of cannabis on site. Nov. 23, 2018

The Terp City cannabis lounge in Victoria is “a safe consumption site,” and Victoria’s refusal to issue it a business licence flies in the face of common sense, its lawyer has argued to city councillors.

“There is a need in this city for safe consumption just like safe injection sites,” Terp City lawyer Robert Laurie told city councillors holding a business licensing hearing.

Terp City owner Kyle Cheyne applied for a business licence to operate a members-only, 19-years-and-over, private club in April 2017, at 1412 Douglas St.

He noted at that time that no cannabis would be sold or stored on site. But Terp City was denied a business licence under the city’s Cannabis-Related Business Bylaw, which prohibits consumption of cannabis on site.

“What Mr. Cheyne is doing is providing a space where anyone of you, or members of the police or bylaw or folks who live in strata or have problems with landlords or if you live near a school or you don’t want to be seen consuming your medicine in any of its forms, [can]. This is the right place,” Laurie said.

“Think about it folks. If you’re a highly successful executive and you work a stone’s throw from here, you don’t want to consume your medicine out front of the office space on office property,” he said.

Laurie said it doesn’t make sense for the city on one hand to give approval to both the sale of cannabis and paraphernalia to use it while refusing a licence for a place for people to smoke it.

“It seems to be incongruent that Victoria would create a licence for the purchase of the product, devices and paraphernalia so you can use to consume a product, while knowing full well that they can’t smoke in public or go near schools, parks and other sensitive areas. It makes perfect sense to allow somewhere for this,” he said. “What we’re here to look at today is something has to be provided to deal with this void in a real modern-day situation.”

Under questioning from Mayor Lisa Helps, Cheyne admitted that in addition to Terp City he has been operating a cannabis dispensary at 950 Yates St. without a business licence for more than a year after its application for rezoning was turned down.

Laurie said Cheyne fully admits to operating Terp City without a licence. “For him to close down at this stage means he’s going to put a lot of other medical patients and citizens and voting members of the community in a position where they have to essentially choose their medicine or go without that and obey the law,” Laurie said.

However, in response to questioning from Helps, he conceded Terp City has no affiliation with Island Health nor any licence from Island Health to operate a safe consumption service.

Laurie said if Terp City is denied a business licence, there will be no alternative but to turn to the courts.

At the hearing’s close, councillors reserved their decision, wanting to receive legal advice in a closed session.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com