Nelson’s new business licence bylaw aims at clarity for marijuana dispensaries

Bylaw includes fines for unlicensed businesses.

Mahalakshmi and the Kootenay Compassion Collective on Front Street are part of the new marijuana dispensary landscape in Nelson that may be affected by Nelson's new business licence bylaw.

Nelson city council hopes changes to its business licence bylaw will help to chip away at the legal ambiguity around marijuana dispensaries.

The bylaw, previously unaltered since 1990, will now require a licensed business to be in compliance with local, provincial and federal laws. Mayor Deb Kozak says this puts the city in a position to better enforce the bylaw when the federal government comes out with new legislation on marijuana in the near future. The bylaw passed third reading and is still to be adopted at a future meeting. Its full text is attached below.

The new bylaw also add new fines for operating without a business licence: $150 for a first offence, $300 for a second offence, and $500 for a third. The bylaw contains a provision that each new day of an offence after a ticket is issued is a considered a separate offence with a renewed fine.

The city’s legislative manager Frances Long says that those tickets will be dealt with like traffic tickets.

“They have to appeal the ticket within the first two weeks and then they see the screening officer and the screening officer makes a decision. If the person is not satisfied and there is no resolution, they can request an adjudicator to hear the dispute.”

An alternative punishment for not having a business licence would be a $10,000 fine that could only be levied through a complex and expensive court procedure and would only be used in a extreme cases.

Long says the city can’t shut a business down. Only a court can do that.

Several dispensaries are operating in Nelson without business licences. Some have applied and been refused, Kozak says, because city hall wasn’t convinced their activities are legal. She said legal medical marijuana has special procedures that some dispensaries aren’t following, including the requirement that it be delivered by mail.

Councillor Valerie Warmington commented last week that some dispensaries may be legal businesses because medical marijuana is legal, but are operating in an illegal manner.

The city is waiting to see what the rules and regulations for dispensaries at the federal level will be, according to Kozak, once the new government follows through on its intention to legalize and regulate marijuana.

“The way we enact our bylaws,” she said, “is we educate first, then we enforce later. In this case, because of the uncertainty at the federal government level, if we did take the person to court, there is an expense, but we are unsure what the decision would be.”

She cited a recent court case (not in Nelson) in which a judge declined to shut an apparently illegal marijuana business down because the federal rules are so unclear.

Kozak said that for the time being the city simply needs “assurance that businesses are operating in a safe fashion. The police are monitoring pretty closely. We don’t want unregulated businesses selling to minors or operating near schools. The ones I am aware of are in the downtown core, visible, and easily monitored. Police are aware of the people who have opened them.”

Sgt. Nate Holt of the Nelson Police Department agrees and said they are awaiting direction from Health Canada.

”What does not go away is public safety. We have talked with all the dispensary owners. There are many business models there. Some work well and some don’t. We had one that was shut down because of neighbour complaints.”

Kozak said city council contains the full spectrum of opinions on dispensaries.

“We have some councillors who say we should close them all now, and others who say they know people who have benefited from medical marijuana. So we have had really intense discussions about this. I am proud of council for working through this and we are urging the federal government to act on this sooner rather than later.”

Business Licence Bylaw No. 3328

 

Just Posted

PHOTOS: L.V. Rogers sends off its grad class

Check out our pictures of the festivities

Nine fires burning in West Kootenay

All fires considered to be lightning caused.

Castlegar mayor releases FCM itinerary

Bruno Tassone delivers promised report on activities at Quebec City municipal conference

COLUMN: 1919 – Police chief reminds drivers of streetcar etiquette

Greg Scott takes us back to a century ago in the files of the Nelson Daily News

Nelson archers host meet

The Nelson Rod and Gun Club hosted 78 archers

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

No business case for Trans Mountain expansion, says former environment minister

Cabinet is expected to announce its decision on the expansion of the Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline by Tuesday

LETTER: British Columbia’s forest industry crisis being made worse

Andrew Wilkinson warns of regulatory overload by John Horgan’s NDP

Most Read