By: Rosanne Waters on
Rona Ambrose, Conservative MP for Edmonton—Spruce Grove, in a press conference on June 11, 2015
According to publicly available data, the City of Vancouver has 90 or 91 Starbucks locations and at least 93 marijuana dispensaries. There currently are more marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks locations in Vancouver.FactsCan Score: True
In June, Health Minister Rona Ambrose said she was “outraged” by a ruling on medical marijuana from Canada’s top court. The Supreme Court ruled the government could not restrict the medical use of marijuana to dried leaves, but must also permit its intake in other forms, including in baked goods, oils, and teas.
Reacting to the ruling, Ambrose said, “in Vancouver now, we have more pot dispensaries than Starbucks locations.”
To check this statement, we need two numbers: Starbucks locations and marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver.
The City of Vancouver’s database of business licences provides the first number. It lists 92 Starbucks licenses. Each Starbucks is listed at a different address, with the exception of two (a “Wholesale Dealer” and “Instruction” location), located at the same address. Counting these two listings as one location, there’s a total of 91 instead of 92. A Globe and Mail article from June, for example, named 91 as Vancouver’s Starbucks total. We could also discount these two, as they’re not actually serving coffee, for a total of 90 coffee shops.
While the database appears to provide a relatively simple answer to the first number, there are some disparities in Vancouver Starbucks counts. According to some news sources (Huffington Post, BC Business), there are 108. This number comes from a 2014 Quartz analysis of Starbucks locations in cities around the world. The article, however, included the important caveat that due to its method of counting, its totals might be either overstated or understated depending on whether locations in surrounding cities were included. So it’s likely the 108 number for Vancouver includes some locations actually found in the surrounding municipalities that are part of Metro Vancouver.
As a primary source that also offers the most recent numbers, the city database is most reliable. And although Ambrose did not specify the City of Vancouver or Metro Vancouver, we’ll assume she meant the city proper.
The second number is more complicated to peg. Under current federal regulations, medical marijuana can only be acquired through the mail from producers approved by Health Canada. Dispensaries operate illegally. They’re not allowed to sell or obtain marijuana, but police have only lightly enforced the law, calling the shops a “low priority.” On June 24, Vancouver’s city council approved a plan to begin regulating dispensaries, but at the time of Ambrose’s comments on June 11 they were not regulated through municipal business licences. That means they are not listed in the city’s business license database.
But several media outlets have calculated their own totals. Both CBC and CTV reported 93 marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver. According to a CBC article from early May, the City of Vancouver counted 84 at the time, “but admitted the list may not be complete.” A more recent Globe and Mail article counted 98 dispensaries.
The CBC, CTV, and Globe and Mail numbers offer the best reference points, as they are more recent and given the city’s qualification that its count was not necessarily comprehensive.
Whether a figure of 93 or 98 is used as the total number of marijuana dispensaries, this is a larger number than Vancouver’s 90 or 91 Starbucks locations listed in the city’s business licence database. While the numbers may change once the city’s new dispensary regulations are implemented, the health minister’s statement is true according to the latest, publicly available information.