The city has begun preparations for when the federal government legalizes marijuana. It’s creating new zoning rules to regulate where cannabis sales points can be located.
“I think we’re going to want to be cautious about where we would allow dispensaries to be located so that’s why we are making changes soon with the zoning bylaw to clarify where those dispensaries will not be permitted,” Mayor Don Iveson told reporters. “We’ll have to do deliberate work to determine where they might be permitted with things like separation distances and preventing over-concentration in mind, much as we approach alcohol sales today.”
Colton Kirsop, a senior planner handling the zoning changes for the city said they’re trying to close loop holes to keep some one from using existing zoning to sneak in before specific changes come.
“We think they’re broad enough so we don’t get into the trap of too much detail, and people getting clever about the detail,” Kirsop told council’s executive committee. “We think the net is broad enough in this that it is a good first step into your bylaw to establish it. It can refined later if we learn more. As a first step we think it’s broad enough.”
Members of city council’s executive committee are also raising concerns about enforcement costs being downloaded on them from the feds and the province. “Since the city has no alternative taxing powers in terms of what we’ve got now, so we’re unlikely that we’re going to be able to tax this,” said Coun. Michael Oshry. “So is one way around that just charging a really high licencing fee, in the tens of thousands?”
“That appears to be one of the models that was presented in front of you and that’s one of the things we would evaluate,” Kirsop said.
Coun. Mike Nickel is among those who think expensive business licences are going to be needed for individual shops.
“The police are going to make a very good argument. We’re going need extra cops to do this,” he said.
Nickel, who raised the issue saying he wanted the city to get in front of pot legalization, not under it, said he doesn’t know if the city will always fall short in covering enforcement costs. “That is a good question. I’m not sure.”
“I would start with the policing model first and see how many bodies they need. Then go from there and the enforcement side and then work towards the other cost recovery elements because I think those are going to be the big ticket items.”
The city is also beginning work on how to manage cannabis lounges and what rules need to be in place for them, but at this point can’t move forward until it gets more information from the feds and the province.