It wasn’t a big crowd and not many people got up to speak, but of those who did, the sentiments were similar – having a marijuana dispensary is okay.
Coun. Ken Jamieson ran the Marijuana Retailers/Dispensaries public input session Monday night at Salmon Arm council chambers.
“We’re not voting on anything and we don’t debate on the upcoming legal changes, our focus tonight is to get input from organizations and individuals who have an interest in the topic,” said Jamieson.
He told the audience of more than 20 there had been some inquiries from people who were interested in opening a dispensary but “entrepreneurs are not beating down the doors at city hall.”
Diana Altschul said this is going to be a “unique opportunity to embrace” and suggested the city set up a task force that will “set a standard.” She said when a dispensary opens she hopes the staff are “certified and knowledgable… and take the Hippocratic oath.”
Jim Kimmerly said he just had a cautionary comment: “There might be some sensitivity of surrounding businesses. I would not have wanted a dispensary around my shop and I think a lot of corporations would be the same.”
Monica Kriese said she wasn’t as concerned about location and suggested a lot of education would have to be done.
“There is a lot of stigma with the word cannabis whether it’s medical or not.”
John Henderson said the war on drugs has been a failure in the United States and Canada and said he was in favour of legalizing marijuana.
“I don’t want drugs controlled by the criminals. I hope council would push to have all drugs legalized. Taking it out of control of the criminals – people would know what they’re getting and we wouldn’t have a fentanyl problem.”
In response to questions from council concerning best practices in other cities, Kevin Pearson, Director of Development Services, said there wasn’t really any comparison to make.
“Dispensaries are illegal under federal law. I wouldn’t refer to Vancouver or Nelson or Penticton as best practices, they jumped the gun and issued business licenses because they were pressured to do so.”
Alonzo Anderberg said Salmon Arm was “missing the mark” compared to places like Aurora, Alberta which is all ready to go when the federal government gives the green light.
“Right now they have 33,000 thousand-gram bags ready, and an 80,000 square foot building for their next grow-op.”
Keith Campbell also urged council to be proactive in this “life-changing” event of legalization.
“I’ve been here for two years and I’ve been noticing a lot of stores are closing downtown. Salmon Arm needs a stimulus for business and this product will probably take off – from shampoo to cream. And as for growing it, it’s the same thing – it can employ people. The people of Salmon Arm deserve this. I really do feel this is a life-changing event. Hopefully Salmon Arm can be the leading edge in this.”
Although all spoke in favour of allowing dispensaries, some people raised concerns. Kory Van Os said he has two children and he wanted to know what council could put in place for those who get addicted to drugs.
Sylvia Lindgren became emotional as she spoke in favour.
“I hope we move forward. We need to legalize it to take the shame factor out of it.”
Councillors discussed various ways they could limit and control dispensaries, such as higher business license fees and site-specific zoning.
“Can we limit the number?” asked Coun. Alan Harrison.
“I’m a free-market person but in this case…”
“Where are people buying it now?” asked Coun. Chad Eliason. “They’re in your neighbourhood and your neighbourhood – it’s everywhere. I have a feeling all of our conversations may be moot because the federal government may come out with regulations like they did with liquor stores.”