Marijuana Dispensaries

Delegates heard the steps taken in three B.C. communities to regulate marijuana dispensaries in the Mid-Sized Forum on Tuesday.

Mayor Patricia Heintzman spoke to Squamish’s use of zoning and business license bylaws in order to control the proliferation of dispensaries and their location.

The District has zoned pot shops to the periphery of the community in order to keep them off its main commercial street. Zoning restrictions on the neighbourhoods in which dispensaries can be sited also effectively capped their number in the community. Squamish has also set the business license fee for dispensaries at $5000.00 in order to recoup the costs to the District for additional bylaw enforcement

Heintzman said that Council’s decision to regulate reflects the paradox that prohibition tends to worsen health and social outcomes.

In contrast, the City of Merritt is taking a “wait and see” approach pending changes to federal legislation to legalize marijuana. Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott has indicated that legislation will be introduced during the 2017 spring session. The City effectively shut down the lone dispensary in the community by refusing to issue a business license and ticketing daily. The RCMP eventually charged the owner with trafficking, leading to the closure of the shop.

Nelson Mayor Deb Kozak noted that the City’s approach focused amending its zoning bylaw to prohibit pot dispensaries, thus requiring each business to seek a variance in order to set up shop.

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