Tofino is in the middle of an extensive public consultation process around cannabis legislation and is passing everything it’s learned over to its neighbours in Ucluelet.
“We do, at the staff level, bounce ideas off of each other and wherever possible learn from each other,” said Ucluelet’s Manager of Community Planning Bruce Greig. “As small communities, that allows us to tap into more ideas, more opinions [and] more experience.”
Greig said Ucluelet’s district staff hopes to have options around potential cannabis legislation in front of council by the end of April and that Tofino has been a valuable resource.
“Tofino has been very upfront in preparing their bylaws and engaging the community on potential changes to their zoning, particularly, and business licensing to be ready for the federal legislation,” he said. “The same issues that apply there affect us here, so we’ll be looking at similar things and council will have options on how to change our regulations to be ready for when the federal act is adopted sometime, maybe, this summer or fall.”
One of the issues Tofino is considering is whether to allow public consumption of cannabis. Ucluelet mayor Dianne St. Jacques told the Westerly that marijuana would fit into the district’s already relatively strict smoking bylaw that was adopted in 2016.
“We have no-smoking in place already, so it’s already done in that regard,” she said. “It won’t be allowed because we’ve already put that in place.”
The bylaw prohibits smoking on balconies, patios, yards, sidewalks connected to businesses that serve food or alcohol and public lands, which include parks, beaches and trails.
One of the loudest proponents of that smoking bylaw being adopted was municipal councillor Sally Mole who said she expects to see marijuana equally restricted.
“I wouldn’t want to see it at the skate park or where kids congregate, but I’m definitely not anti-marijuana by any means,” she said. “I’ve seen the positive effects that my friends, and my relatives, have had consuming it, cancer patients mostly. So, there’s a place for it, I just don’t know exactly where it is. I’m hoping that our planner will be able to spell out some things that make sense and that people can live with.”
St. Jacques added Ucluelet is taking its time with cannabis and is waiting on further direction from the provincial and federal governments.
“They haven’t tidied up what they are going to do yet,” she said. “Right now, as far as the RCMP is concerned, it’s illegal. So, it doesn’t seem very responsible of us to be leaping ahead until our enforcement folks have a clear understanding of how they’re going to manage it.”
She noted Ucluelet has received applications from people interested in opening up retail marijuana stores in the community.
“I think some of these applications that we’re getting now are people that are trying to get their foot in the door before anybody else,” she said.
“For us, we’re pretty clear that, until we get those rules, regulations and decisions from our other two levels of government, then we’re not prepared to have one open up in Ucluelet.”