Municipalities weighing how they’ll respond to B.C.’s cannabis retail plan
Municipalities across Metro Vancouver are considering their options when it comes to allowing legal cannabis retailers in their communities, following the release of new provincial policy around licensing.
This week, the B.C. government said that under its proposed framework for the retail sales of non-medical cannabis, residents aged 19 and older will be able to buy cannabis through privately run or government-operated retail stores and online through the government once it is legalized in July.
The Liquor Distribution Branch will operate public retail stores and the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch will license and monitor private stores.
“I thought the legislation was actually quite good when it came out,” said District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton. “The provincial regulations seemed to be right in line with what we thought they should be.”
The rules give municipalities a measure of control over sales in their communities, stipulating that local governments can decide whether they want a non-medical cannabis retail store — public or private — in their community.
“We’re glad to see that we have some role to play there,” said City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto.
Municipalities in Metro Vancouver have taken a variety of approaches to retail marijuana sales, from referring the matter to staff and forming committees, to coming up with their own frameworks before the announcement.
Dan Layng, chief licence inspector for the City of Burnaby, said the city has struck a committee.
The three North Shore municipalities are among the many that have referred the matter to staff for further examination.
Richmond has taken a similar tack, despite having written a letter to the federal and provincial governments in October opposing legalization altogether.
“We are in the process of having staff analyze the situation,” said Mayor Malcolm Brodie. “We’ll be coming forward in the weeks to come to talk about what kind of regulation we want around retail sale.”
However, he said Richmond wants to maintain zoning control and he envisions something similar to the regulations around public and private liquor stores, which place limits on factors such as where they can be located.
Mayor Jonathan Cote said New Westminster seeks to regulate cannabis retailers with a framework similar to that used for private liquor stores in the city, though council and staff are still ironing out details.
Cote said the city anticipates having its framework implemented in early fall, but no retail outlets will be allowed to open before then, even if federal legalization comes in July as expected.
Last month, White Rock council adopted a zoning bylaw amendment that essentially prevents cannabis retailers from setting up shop before the province has provided more details about its approach.
Port Coquitlam is taking a similar wait-and-see approach and planning to revisit its current restrictions after new federal and provincial legislation is in place. There is no timeline for this process.
At least two cities — Vancouver and Surrey — have already come up with policies.
For almost three years, Vancouver has been working to license qualified marijuana-related businesses and take enforcement action against and close those that are operating without licences.
Though about 20 businesses have received Vancouver’s stamp of approval and licences, they will not receive preferential treatment and will have to apply to the province for licensing along with new businesses.
Surrey plans to spend the next few months implementing its new framework, which includes checklists for zoning and land-use bylaws and regulations, inspection and enforcement, revenue and economic development, education and public engagement.