Vancouver Police Union worries about quest to license pot shops

VANCOUVER — The union representing Vancouver’s police officers says members are raising serious questions about the process and transparency behind the city’s rapid push to license up to a dozen marijuana dispensaries by this spring.

At a union meeting last week, Tom Stamatakis, the president of the Vancouver Police Union, said members identified several areas of concern with the city’s controversial move to regulate the dispensaries — including who is involved, the degree of scrutiny being applied to applications, and issues of disclosure.

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Also raised, he said, was the general confusion that exists between federal legislation, which views dispensaries as illegal, and the approach the city is taking.

“It’s just a general concern that creates a lot of confusion and conflict with a lot of members as they are trying to keep citizens safe in our community,” Stamatakis said.

“There is [also] a huge concern around ensuring that we don’t have people who are involved in criminal activity or organized criminal activity involved in the establishment or the operation of licensed marijuana dispensaries.”

The city expects to offer decisions on 14 development permit applications for dispensaries by the end of the month, according to a recent information bulletin.

One of those applicants is EVO Medi Society, whose director is listed as Rocco Dipopolo, a former Hells Angels prospect.

In a recent interview with the Globe and Mail, Dipopolo, who does not have a criminal record, said he turned away from that lifestyle a long time ago and is now a businessman. He also owns a gym, boxing clinic and tattoo parlour, according to the newspaper.

However, one of his staff members, Patrick Bluejacket, is listed in organized crime files as having an association with the Independent Soldiers, a police source told the Sunday Province.

Bluejacket, who does not have a criminal record, is listed as providing EVO with “consulting services” and counter support.

Criminal record checks are not required as part of the development permit application process.

However, successful applicants will have to apply for a business licences, which requires submission of a criminal record check from applicants and their staff.

Stamatakis said union members found the redaction of the names of some applicants in the operational letters posted on the city’s website to be troubling.

“That was one of the issues that was brought up: the inconsistency around how the information is being publicized,” he said. “And you know, why are some names included and others not? Given the nature of the activity and what is being proposed, it just seems like … it should be more transparent.”

In an email, the City of Vancouver said that personal information not already publicly available is “automatically redacted before the city makes these records public.”

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