Kelowna’s point man on how the city plans to deal with pot shops once recreational marijuana is legalized in Canada says while the province’s retail rules announcement Monday did not reveal anything unexpected for the city, it will allow staff to start working on recommendations for council.
Ryan Smith, community planning manager, said Tuesday staff will hold public consultations, likely with stakeholders, in March or April if council gives them the green light to figure out the rules for proposed private, and public, marijuana retail locations.
He said staff would then have recommendations about how the city should proceed with land-use issues associated with the retail sales ready for council by June.
“Council has made it clear (marijuana shops) will be part of the retail fabric of the city,” said Smith.
As such, it’s up to city staff to lay out the rules for how retail outlets would be allowed to operate, where, at what times and how close they could be to each other.
Smith said the eventual model will likely be similar to how the city now deals with private liquor stores.
He said the city does not want to see marijuana shops—the government says they cannot be called dispensaries—located near major parks, community centres, schools and on streets where the city has spent large amounts of money for revitalization.
The city also wants to regulate where the production of marijuana for recreational sales would take place. And on that, said Smith, more information from Victoria is needed.
Then there’s the question of money. Municipalities have asked for, and expect to get, a cut of tax revenue from the sale of pot from the province because it will have to deal with issues such as zoning, land-use and enforcement, but it does not know yet how much.
On Monday, B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth unveiled the province’s regulatory framework for storefront sales , saying municipalities can ban them altogether if they don’t want stores in their jurisdictions.
But Smith said that will not happen here.
Farnworth also said in addition to private stores, the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch will operate stores that sell recreational marijuana. It will not, however, be sold at government liquor stores.
There also won’t be a cap on the number of licences for private sellers but licences will not be granted without the support of local governments.
The new rules will allow only those over 19 to purchase and possess up to 30 grams of marijuana for recreational use. Smoking it will be allowed wherever people can now legally smoke tobacco—with the exception of while driving and in places frequented by children, such as beaches, playgrounds and parks.
Smith said Monday’s announcement will not stop the city from its current legal quest to shut down illegal retail sales of the drug currently underway. The city has applied to the courts to order existing “dispensaries” in the city to close.
Currently four of the six dispensaries operating in the city have closed.
He said businesses that have operated illegally to this point should not have an advantage over those who have patiently waited and will follow the rules when they to apply for a licence to sell.
“We want to make sure private businesses comply and there is a level paying field,” he said.