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Jason Tarnow courts votes of cannabis retail supporters

The Richmond city council candidate is the first to openly declare his support for pot stores in Richmond.
Richmond election cannabis
Jason Tarnow, a lawyer, is running independently for Richmond city council. He's the only candidate so far to welcome cannabis retail in the city. Left photo: Submitted. Right photo: The Canadian Press/Tijana Martin

While most mayoral and city council candidates in Richmond have so far displayed a rather begrudging attitude toward cannabis legalization, one independent candidate is focusing on the positive impacts it will have on the city.

Criminal lawyer and city council candidate Jason Tarnow is the first to declare he wants to bring cannabis retail stores to Richmond. He says it’s an opportunity for Richmond to seize valuable tax revenue.

“There’s this reefer madness mentality coming out of city hall and it’s really an antiquated line of thought,” he said. “Richmond’s missing the boat on a huge opportunity to gather millions of dollars back into programming.”

Ted Townsend, spokesperson for the city of Richmond, said current bylaws do not permit cannabis retail stores in the city.

Thus far, brick-and-mortar pot boutiques have gotten a frosty reception from council. Coun. Chak Au chaired a concern group pushing to postpone legalization and Mayor Malcolm Brodie has aired concerns for the municipal enforcement expenses.

At a campaign news conference last week, incumbent Coun. Carol Day said she did not want a proliferation of retail stores and suggested those in Richmond seeking legal cannabis could order it online.

But for Richmond resident Marc Longstaffe, that’s not good enough.

In the current medical online ordering system, bud takes between two and five days to arrive in the mail. You need to order with your credit card, and Longstaffe doesn’t want an electronic record of weed purchases for fear he’ll get denied entry into the U.S.

Plus, there’s the looming threat of a postal strike.

Going to a dispensary in Vancouver means driving over the bridge and transporting the product back in his car, which he’s also loathe to do. He’d prefer a physical retail store within walking distance of his home.

“I wish people would open their minds,” he said, adding that Tarnow has “got my vote.”

Dina Morgan, another Richmond resident, is also disappointed in council’s lack of acceptance of cannabis stores in Richmond. She has a dream of opening a deli-style store selling cannabis edibles in south Richmond, and needs the city go-ahead to do that.

“The majority of Richmondites who are cannabis consumers go to Vancouver and beyond to get it,” she said. “Why should Vancouver get my tax money when my kids go to school here in Steveston?”

Tarnow said he decided to run because he’s concerned about the direction the city is taking. He grew up in Richmond and has worked here as a criminal lawyer for a decade.

“I’m in the criminal justice system on a daily basis. I know where crime lies in this community; I know the cause of it,” he said. “I can tell you right now, cannabis is not one of the more pressing issue here.”

He also thinks community safety and supporting small business to create a vibrant city are important issues.  

Update Oct. 3, 2018: A second independent candidate has come out in support of retail cannabis sales in Richmond. Dennis Page, who works in digital media production, says the new cannabis industry could help create more jobs for Richmondites.