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Strategy released for delivering public engagement process for cannabis legalization

Beginning in late January media, social media and the city’s own website will to start an information campaign on cannabis legalization, with federal, provincial and municipal government roles laid out as well as how residents can have a voice in the process. — Creative Commons photo

Cannabis is now on the municipal menu as the city served up the recipe for its three-month public engagement strategy for cannabis legalization beginning later this month.

City council passed a resolution approving the strategy on Monday night during its regular meeting, noting that a professional facilitator has already been retained to work with the city’s Development Services staff to prepare a detailed engagement strategy for cannabis legalization.

In order to lay the groundwork for a proper public process and gather information for Nelson-specific regulations, the city had adopted a moratorium on cannabis retail locations in order to allow time for the engagement process to gestate prior to adopting new regulations.

It is anticipated that the provincial government will provide more information on provincial regulations for cannabis outlets by the end of January or early February, said city Development Services manager Pam Mierau in her report to council.

She also felt, similar to federal regulations, that local governments would be able to have more restrictive regulations but must meet provincial minimums.

“While uncertainty exists as to what regulations the provincial government will provide, understanding what residents of Nelson would like in different scenarios will help the city prepare for legalization within the short timeframe,” said Mierau.

The process and the regulations are necessary, Mierau explained, since not undertaking a public engagement nor developing regulations before the federal government’s release in July could result in retail outlets establishing themselves in numerous locations throughout the city.

There would be no control on the number of outlets or on the separation distances from youth facilities, schools, each other or liquor stores, and could potentially affect “the long term viability of other retail stores that are key to the success of Nelson’s downtown,” she added.

This includes all of the downtown, Railtown, along Front Street and Nelson Avenue, adjacent to the highway on the North Shore, in neighbourhood grocery stores, a few locations along Hall Mines Road, as well as along the waterfront including the two development sites Kutenai Landing and Nelson Landing.

An initial high-level public engagement plan had been presented in early December, which included the hiring of an independent facilitator to manage stakeholder meetings and work with staff on the preparation and execution of the engagement strategy.

The strategy will involved three major steps, culminating in late April:

  • Information sharing and spreading the word Beginning in late January media, social media and the city’s own website will to start an information campaign on cannabis legalization, with federal, provincial and municipal government roles laid out as well as how residents can have a voice in the process.
  • Seeking formal feedback via forms and written submissions Beginning Feb. 1 small group meetings and presentations will be held with city-identified stakeholder groups in order to educate a range of stakeholders on the process to date, along with information on  potential regulations and how each group can voice their opinions. A set of questions that the city is looking for feedback on will be provided.
  • Reporting back and informing next steps In early April 2018 a public meeting will be held as well as two small group meetings to report back on the feedback received during the course of the engagement process.

— Source: City of Nelson

Bringing it back home

Part of the process will include a city-wide mail out of a feedback form that is expected to contain questions on the location, consumption and cultivation of cannabis, as well as background information and the URL to the city’s website to obtain further information.

The regulations will be drafted based on community feedback, current community planning and existing council bylaws (such as the Clean Air Bylaw) and presented back to the community in April.

After that bylaw amendments will be developed, with the goal to have all of the necessary regulations in place prior to July 2018 when the federal government will release its legislation.

Cost of the process

The budget for the public engagement facilitator is $15,000, with additional engagement costs including the feedback form mail-out to all Nelson households and return postage.

The city is expected to develop zoning, business license and possibly Clean Air Bylaw amendments that will be influenced by the information gathered through the coming public consultation process, with all changes expected to meet the requirements of both federal and provincial legislation.