Entrepreneur and RN Charise Rouleau checks out a storyboard at the Retail Cannabis Open House Thursday, while Jasmine Liu of Trees Dispensary listens to a city staffer behind her. Jennifer Feinberg/ The Progress

Entrepreneur and RN Charise Rouleau checks out a storyboard at the Retail Cannabis Open House Thursday, while Jasmine Liu of Trees Dispensary listens to a city staffer behind her. Jennifer Feinberg/ The Progress

Retail cannabis questions dominated Chilliwack open house

Should there be special zoning for pot shops at a certain distance from schools and civic spaces?

About 40 people showed up at the Retail Cannabis Open House hosted by the City of Chilliwack.

Those who made it, perused the storyboards lined up in Evergreen Hall, and chatted with city staff for a couple of hours on Thursday night.

Chilliwack, like every other level of government, is preparing legislatively for recreational cannabis legalization in Canada, and the open house was in part to survey local public opinion.

READ MORE: Nailing down the rules

The city’s jurisdiction includes regulating retail location licensing and rules, public consumption, land-use and zoning.

Some who popped by the open house were scoping out business opportunities, while others wonder how legalizing pot will impact their neighbourhoods.

One attendee was Jim Simmill, a retired RCMP officer, who was curious about the direction Chilliwack might take with the zoning.

“I came to see what the future holds,” he said. He would prefer a special zone created for cannabis retail with properties to undergo rezoning, with setbacks from schools, similar to liquor stores.

He was surprised by relatively small turnout at the open house. There were only about 40 people in attendance, although almost 200 have filled out the survey to date.

“I thought there’d be more interest,” said Simmill. “But I think like anything, there will be some who’ll be very vocal in their displeasure, and hopefully they are here tonight voicing their concerns. And if they are not here tonight, they’ll have no right to voice them later.”

What he definitely does not want to see is multiple outlets in a row, like in a strip mall or established all in one ghettoized area.

“I want to see clean, safe environments for the consumers to purchase their products,” Simmill added.

But another attendee had no real problem envisioning a line of weed stores grouped together in a row.

Jasmine Liu, supply management and government relations officer for Trees Dispensary of Victoria, flew over from the Island to see how Chilliwack might approach the retail landscape post-legalization.

“We are looking at a number of cities for possible new locations,” she said, adding that Chilliwack was one of them.

Trees is a craft cannabis dispensary chain with stores in Victoria and Nanaimo and an online dispensary. Liu said grouping retail together might make sense in some jurisdictions.

“Sometimes it is done with an eye to harm reduction,” Liu said, referring to the medical use of cannabis, as an alternative in opioid substance use disorders.

City reps will continue to collect feedback and public opinion for the next few days in Chilliwack. They are accepting online and paper questionnaires, on everything from zoning and licensing questions, to public consumption of non-medicinal pot.

One of the main questions is: “Do you support the creation of a new zone (C9 Cannabis Retail) to regulate cannabis retail sales in the City?”

The survey closes July 4.

Then council will first have to decide whether to allow retail sales or not in Chilliwack, and if so, where exactly. It will also decide if it will it require owners/operators to rezone property for with a new proposed zoning designation of C9 for Cannabis Retail.

Other question marks include the minimum distance restrictions from schools and other public facilities, such as 300 metres away, as well as the distance from other cannabis shops, the hours of operation, and age restrictions.

See more at Chilliwack.com/retailcannabis

READ MORE: Blanket ban until legalization


@CHWKjournojfeinberg@theprogress.comLike us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Chilliwack Progress