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Some councillors still say ‘no’ to pot when it comes to temporary use permits

Despite objections of a few councilors, five variances passed a temporary use permit for more medical marijuana dispensaries Monday night during council’s regular meeting. — The Nelson Daily photo
Marijuana is still illegal in Canada and the corporation of the City of Nelson should not be drafting legislation regarding the regulation of operation of medical marijuana dispensaries, say two members of city council.

Both councillors Bob Adams and Janice Morrison contend that city council is dealing with matters that have still not been cleared through the legal system yet, and therefore it should not be issuing business licences and temporary use permits for medical marijuana dispensaries.

“I want to know why we are doing this when medical marijuana is illegal?” Adams asked Monday night when council was faced with a vote on approving temporary use permits for five of the seven dispensaries.

He said someone that has a medical marijuana certificate in Nelson could purchase medical marijuana through the mail.

“So why do we need six shops in Nelson?” he asked.

Morrison agreed, stating that there was no legal mechanism in Canada which allowed for medical marijuana dispensaries or compassion clubs to sell marijuana to the public, regardless of whether or not the purchasing individual has a licence to purchase the cannabis, or whether or not the vendor had a licence to produce it.

“Marijuana is still illegal and we are approving something that is still considered illegal,” she pointed out. “There is no such thing as a legal marijuana dispensary.”

Morrison had stated her position in previous meetings over the medical marijuana matter.

“This is an illegal business,” she has said. “It is not recognized in Canada. Until such time the federal government … has moved forward (with legislation), I feel these compassion clubs and medical marijuana dispensaries should be closed in the city of Nelson.”

Even so, despite their objections and votes in the contrary, a total of five variances passed a temporary use permit for more medical marijuana dispensaries on Monday night during council’s regular business meeting in council chambers.

Mayor Deb Kozak said the Union of B.C. Municipalities is paying close attention to what is happening at the federal level with marijuana legislation, and have put out a call for senior city staff across the province to form an advisory committee.

She said the federal government is looking to regulate the product itself, but how the product is dispensed or regulated, the province will have quite a bit of interpretation in that regard.

“So we will be involved in that process moving forward as local governments so that we can provide our recommendations to the province on how we see things operating,” she said. “So I hope that gives you some level of comfort moving forward.”

City staff had recommended approval of all five temporary use permits.

At the May 2017 regular meeting of council, five of the seven business licence applications for medical cannabis dispensaries were approved. Two months later two additional business licence applications for medical cannabis dispensaries were approved.

Of the seven applicants, six required temporary use permits as they did not meet the separation distances in the city’s Zoning Bylaw. Only one did not need a temporary use permit as it met the separation distances in the Zoning Bylaw (Medicinal Mary Jane Iprio).

Temporary use permits were required to allow for medical marijuana dispensary locations that did not meet the separation distances in the Zoning Bylaw. As well, a temporary use permit was required to allow for the seventh marijuana dispensary, as it exceeded the limit of six dispensaries that were allowed in the city’s Zoning Bylaw.

There are four primary conditions for the temporary use permit, including:

  • The temporary use permit is for the approved property only;
  • The permit holder will release and indemnify the city and acknowledge that all retail sales of cannabis is presently in contravention of federal criminal law;
  • Temporary use permits last for up to three years; and
  • And the applicant must obtain a business licence.

Under the Zoning Bylaw the city permits the use of cannabis dispensaries in specified downtown zones (C1 and MU4), with “additional requirements limiting proximity to certain facilities and each other.”

The separation limit is 300 metres east and west in the C-1 zone, and 150 m. of separation north and south in the same zone; in the MU-4 zone it would be 150 m. separation as well as 80 m. separation from schools, youth and recreation centres.

The dispensaries were able to apply to council to vary the proximity requirements in the zoning bylaw. The fee for a minor development variance permit was $750, depending on whether one or two variances were required.

There was also a cap of six licences for cannabis dispensaries in the city.

Where there’s smoke

In November 2016, city council directed staff to prepare a cannabis dispensary business licence bylaw and amend the city’s zoning bylaw to regulate these businesses.

Staff reviewed the practices and bylaws in other jurisdictions that chose to regulate medical cannabis dispensaries, consulted with these communities, the city’s legal advisors and the Nelson Police Department in drafting the City of Nelson bylaws.

A public hearing was held and information was gathered from the community, the bylaws were amended based on this feedback. The bylaws were adopted in March 2017 by council.

—   Source: City of Nelson