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Vancouver should shut down pot shops, not regulate them: health minister

SURREY, B.C. - Health Minister Rona Ambrose says the City of Vancouver should consider shutting down illegal marijuana dispensaries, rather than regulating them.Ambrose told reporters at an unrelated event in Surrey, B.C., that the city must "re-think" its plans to discuss regulating medicinal pot shops at an upcoming council meeting.Her comments came a day after she sent a strongly worded letter to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson warning that "normalizing" marijuana will increase use and addiction, especially among youth."The issue for me is a public-health issue. First of all, marijuana dispensaries are illegal," she said. "Marijuana is not a medicine, it is not approved as a medicine by Health Canada, nor has it gone through any of the typical rigorous clinical trials that are necessary for medicine to be approved."City staff will present a report to council on Tuesday, recommending the regulation of the flourishing medical pot industry, enforcing a $30,000 licensing fee and requiring the shops to be at least 300 metres from schools.Coun. Kerry Jang has said the federal government's restrictive medical marijuana laws forced the city to step in and that the new rules are specifically designed to prevent exposure to kids.Ambrose wouldn't say what her government is prepared to do if Vancouver goes ahead with the new regulations. "I would leave that to the police. But I would also say to you that this resolution hasn't passed council yet. They're thinking about it, they have a problem on their hands. A lot of people want to make a lot of money."In March 2014, Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu said his department didn't consider the enforcement of medical marijuana dispensaries a priority. He said police were intent on capturing violent drug traffickers who posted a danger to the community, and the dispensaries didn't fit that priority.Marijuana dispensaries have popped up in larger cities across Canada, but nowhere has the growth been as accelerated than in Vancouver.The number of dispensaries in the city has multiplied from six to 80 in just two years.(CKNW, The Canadian Press)

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