Public to have say about pot

Senate passes Cannabis Act

In a 5-2 vote Monday, Courtenay council approved second reading of zoning amendments to define and restrict storefront cannabis retailers. There will be a public hearing and open house before council considers third reading.

The no votes came from Mayor Larry Jangula and Coun. Erik Eriksson, who questions what an open house will accomplish. Coun. Bob Wells feels it will afford the City an “opportunity to meaningfully engage” with the public.

Bill C-45, the federal Cannabis Act, passed third reading in the Senate June 3. On Tuesday, in a vote of 52-29, senators passed the bill, thereby legalizing recreational marijuana. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet will select a date when legalization becomes law. An eight- to 12-week buffer will give provinces time to prepare for sales.

Production of cannabis will be federally controlled while distribution will fall under provincial jurisdiction. The Province of B.C. intends to restrict the purchase and possession of pot to those over 19. Wholesale distribution will be controlled through the Liquor Distribution Branch.

Municipal governments will have authority to regulate certain aspects, such as zoning and business licensing. The City of Courtenay suggests limiting the number of cannabis retailers to five. It also recommends storefronts be located at least 300 metres from schools, and 400 metres from another cannabis retailer. Ian Buck, the City’s director of development services, said the distances are arbitrary, derived from those in other jurisdictions.

Jangula — who notes Vancouver contains a greater number of marijuana storefronts than Starbucks — applauds staff for keeping the numbers down locally.

“I think it’s important that the right type of people be involved in the retail trade,” said Jangula, who feels municipalities are entitled to one-third of the tax revenue.

“It’s important that the product sold is not laced with other things. I really thought and hoped that they would go along with perhaps a liquor store where you have complete control.”

The public hearing is 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 3 in council chambers.

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