As the Canadian government prepares for the legalization of recreational cannabis in October, the City of Parksville is assembling a framework for regulatory options on a municipal level.
In early 2018, council members directed staff to prepare options for municipal regulation of the cannabis industry. In order to design a suitable structure for Parksville, council told staff to gain public input through an online survey and comment process in March and April. After an inter-departmental working group reviewed the input, researched regulations in other jurisdictions where recreational cannabis is legal, and considered service levels and staffing resources, council was presented with recommendations for future direction.
At a Sept. 24 special council meeting, City of Parksville director of administrative services Keeva Kehler asked council for their direction on zoning, business licences, fees and charges and procedure bylaws in order to make necessary amendments and policy documents to create a cannabis regulatory regime.
Bylaw amendments will come into force on Jan. 31, 2019.
With recreational cannabis just becoming legal in Canada, council had many questions and inquiries for Kehler, who has educated herself extensively on provincial and municipal jurisdiction around recreational cannabis use.
Kehler said, during her research, she was told people could consume marijuana on city streets.
“But the laws for impairment will still apply or the laws for being impaired in public causing a disturbance. That was in May and June of this year, so that may have changed,” Kehler said.
Coun. Teresa Patterson asked if the city could create a bylaw that would prohibit cannabis smoking on city streets and sidewalks.
“We could potentially have a bylaw,” Kehler said.
“We have had these discussions around the smoking of tobacco—the ability to enforce. It’s very difficult even if somebody is smoking in the parks or by the playground by the time we get a complaint and the bylaw officer is able to respond, the person is not there anymore.”
Kehler said she will follow up with the province to see if the city is allowed to prohibit cannabis use on city streets.
The province is not permitting the sale of cannabis in liqour stores, Kehler said, but rather in standalone stores that will either be privately owned or run by the provincial government. Recreational cannabis will not be sold with alcohol.
Coun. Leanne Salter said she would like to see cannabis kept behind a curtain, or not on direct display, like tobacco in retail stores.
Coun. Kim Burden added that he would like to see council include a form and character recommendation for businesses selling recreational cannabis.
“I’d like nice-looking facilities that aren’t behind bars and gates and have the windows blacked out,” Burden said.
“I don’t think we’d want to have an addition to our community that is not inviting, without being too inviting.”
Kehler said she would seek legal advice on whether or not the city could establish form and character guidelines through business licensing.
Council made the motion to only allow cannabis growing, processing and packaging for any use other than personal use to be permitted in industrial zones and not on agricultural land as well.
Another motion that carried was to allow the sale of cannabis in retail stores the same hours as liquor stores (9 a.m. to 11 p.m.). Retailers need a licence to sell cannabis which are issued by the provincial government and they need approval from a municipality as well.
Luke Biles, manager at MNP—Canada’s fifth-largest national accounting and business consulting firm said municipalities can decide whether or not they will allow a retailer to open a dispensary in their city or town.
“Municipalities get to determine how many [dispensaries] there are. If a municipality just wants to get money from the property tax, then they can make unlimited licences, but if they want to maintain their hands in the pot then maybe they’ll only issue a few,” Biles said.
Biles said government regulations on recreational cannabis are broken down into provincial and federal jurisdiction.
He said the feds manage supply, production and processing and provinces regulate distribution and sales. He said regulations are quite extensive to ensure consumers know what they’re getting and for the government to be able to track and record data on cannabis to ensure the product is kept off the black market.
Product testing is will also be mandatory, Biles said.