If the 647 surveys the District of Hope received are anything to go by, a majority of Hope residents are in support of allowing the sale of non-medicinal cannabis (i.e. recreational marijuana) in the community.
Four hundred and ten responded yes to allowing the sale of recreational pot in the community, with 188 opposed.
The survey was decided upon by council as a useful tool to gauge public opinion ahead of marijuana legalization: each household in the district received one survey.
Donna Bellingham, director of corporate services at the district, said people who responded were selective as to which questions they filled out on the survey. This means that for each question, the number of answers does not tally up to the total surveys received.
The theme among those who chose to leave comments after their yes or no responses was largely that this substance being in the community was already a given, whether the respondents supported it or not.
“News flash, they have been selling pot in Hope for years,” one resident wrote. “It all started in the 60s when the draft dodgers moved to the spire across the Fraser bridge and never stopped.”
Residents were also asked whether they support the legalization of marijuana, again a majority of 256 were in strong support. Milder support came from 144 respondents, and 138 were in strong opposition to legalization.
With recreational marijuana now legal across the country, municipalities like Hope must adhere to federal laws but can draft their own bylaws around retail locations and rules, public consumption, zoning and land use.
As of a July 23 bylaw amendment, the district prohibits any retail sales of marijuana. It will be up to the mayor and six councillors elected Oct. 20 to decide whether to repeal or amend this bylaw and how to regulate recreational marijuana in Hope.
The majority of survey respondents were in favour of allowing both government-operated and private retail stores, with 311 in favour of both versus 120 in favour of a government-run store only and 38 for a privately-operated store only.
On the question of whether there should be a limit on the number of stores, the majority said no to a limit on government-run stores.
On the question of limiting the number of private stores, 224 voted against such a limit and 229 were for it. Many responded that the amount of private stores should be decided based on the population.
In response to this question, one tongue-in-cheek comment drew a parallel to pizza. “Doesn’t seem like there is a limit for pizza place licenses; pizza is not the healthiest food,” they wrote.
Where people should or shouldn’t be allowed to smoke up varied, with most stating their opposition to having marijuana sales close to schools, recreation centres and parks. Several people commented that the rules should be along the lines of alcohol and tobacco regulations.
The majority of respondents supported following the province’s rules, rather than adopting stricter rules, on where people would be allowed to smoke marijuana.
The survey also asked about where non-medical marijuana should be allowed to be grown, and concerns with home growing. Over 200 people responded that odour, crime, mould and accessibility of plants were all of concern for them.
Residents were also asked whether they support increased bylaw costs related to recreational marijuana sales and consumption: the votes were close with 282 in support and 220 against, 84 were undecided. Several of those in support stated either taxation on marijuana sales or federal funds should be used to cover these costs.
At an Aug. 27 council meeting, district staff estimated the survey should cost under $1,000. The process ended up costing $1,673, not including “extensive” staff time including one staff member doing data entry for at least a week.
Mayor Wilfried Vicktor said the survey was a worthwhile exercise: “It was not extraordinarily expensive, so it was a good use of money and time.”
Council did not share their views on the survey results during the Oct. 9 council meeting. The results were received at the meeting and it will be up to the mayor and council elected Oct. 20 to decide how to proceed with regulating what is now a legal substance.
To see all the responses to this survey and additional comments received by the district, visit hopestandard.com.
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