In 2017 Nelson council passed a business licence bylaw and a zoning bylaw to regulate medical cannabis dispensaries in the city. It also decided not to allow any recreational cannabis businesses at least until the summer of 2018.
The year saw the continuing saga of city council trying to bide its time until federal and provincial decisions are made about how cannabis may be sold, while allowing and attempting to regulate the sale of medical cannabis.
“There have been many hours of staff and council research, it has been onerous,” said Mayor Deb Kozak in March. “We are trying to put in place a good interim bylaw composed of best practices, plus taking into consideration our small downtown.”
The business licence bylaw passed in March requires that the number of licences for medical cannabis be restricted to six. The licence fee was set at $5,000.
The licence bylaw imposes a number of security requirements on the premises such as video surveillance cameras, security and fire alarms, and air filtration. It contains stipulations about signage and the number of staff who must be on the premises, and requires that windows facing the street must not be opaque.
It says people under 19 are not allowed in the dispensary without an adult.
The zoning bylaw contains rules about where medical cannabis businesses may be located: only in the C1 (downtown commercial) and MU4 (waterfront mixed use) zones, and it stipulates that dispensaries may not exist within certain specified distances of each other, or within 80 metres of the youth centre or a public school.
Currently there are six licensed medical cannabis dispensaries, five of which have been granted three-year temporary use permits because they contravene the zoning bylaw by being too close to the youth centre and/or too close to each other.
That’s the situation with medical cannabis. Recreational cannabis is a different matter.
The province announced in early December that the sale of recreational marijuana will occur through the province’s Liquor Distribution Branch and be sold through government as well as private outlets.
In anticipation of an influx of recreational cannabis businesses in Nelson, council decided to place a moratorium on all such businesses until July, when it and the provincial government will have detailed rules in place.
In early 2018, as a starting point in developing its own rules around recreational cannabis sales, council plans to collect feedback from a large range of community sectors.