They didn’t hear from a single dispensary owner.
By the time Nelson city council met on Monday to discuss their new pot dispensary bylaw, they had received correspondence from a mere seven people. This despite the fact over a hundred angry residents showed up to the last public meeting on the topic.
The feedback period on the proposed bylaw closes today and council will further debate it before voting on Feb. 6.
“I was surprised,” Mayor Deb Kozak told the Star.
“I think maybe people are feeling a little more relaxed. Perhaps now that we’ve had this discussion we’ll receive more feedback.”
Despite the lack of community feedback, the council had a lively debate on the details of the bylaw, touching on surveillance, sandwich boards, grandfathering and a variety of other nuances.
The proposed bylaw is attached below.
Councillor Michael Dailly was acting mayor during the discussions.
One issue was whether the wording around what exactly qualifies as a dispensary was too vague.
“We have a head shop now on Baker St. which I would say advocates and promotes the selling of paraphernalia, would that now require a license under this bylaw? We have a variety of stores that sell bongs, etc., would they require a licence?” Dailly asked.
“I’m concerned this is too broad, and we need to stay with the product.”
The debate was dominated by Kozak and Councillor Anna Purcell, with the latter expressing concern that “we’re getting in the way of regular business people who are just trying to start a business.”
She doubts there’s much crime or danger associated with their establishments.
“I would like to hear from our police chief around what the criminality is like around our current dispensaries,” Purcell said, expressing skepticism that security is really an issue in a small town like Nelson.
But Kozak disagreed.
“I don’t think we need to wait for the police chief, I think we can move forward with making sure people are securing their product, because it’s a very desirable product for some folks. We don’t need the police chief to come give a full report.”
One thing they decided to roll back was the 24-hour video surveillance proposed by the bylaw, which they said was cost-prohibitive and could only be installed by one company in town. They ultimately decided alarm systems without cameras would suffice.
Councillors discussed the distances between the current dispensaries, and their proximity to facilities such as the Nelson and District Community Complex.
According to the bylaw, three of the dispensaries could remain where they are while the three others would require variances.
“The biggest point of panic is around the penalties,” said Purcell, making a point to establish that the $10,000 fines listed are for “egregious offences” and are a routine part of city bylaws.
“Hopefully people’s concerns will be assuaged by the fact it’s just a regular part of our bylaws.”
Councillor Robin Cherbo thinks the $5,000 business licence is appropriate.
“They make substantial money and they should have no problem paying that.”
As far as grandfathering the current locations, Kozak said that’s an unnecessary move.
“At this point I don’t think it’s necessary to grandfather anybody. I think what people can be rest assured of is that there’s been no action taken until this point.”