A long-awaited report recommends Saanich limit the sale of recreational marijuana to commercial zones that permit liquor sales.
Seven commercial zones spread across Saanich currently permit liquor sales – a number below the 23 commercial zones that permit the retail sales of goods and services (but not liquor). The staff report also recommends against permitting the sale of recreational marijuana on a location-by-location basis with a preference for locations within designated centres and villages.
Based on a series of municipal maps, this recommendation appears as the most restrictive of the three options that staff is presenting to council, as it would limit recreational retail sales to a small scattering of locations. Sixteen locations currently fall into one of the seven commercial zones that permit liquor retail sales.
Sharon Hvozdanski, Saanich’s director of planning, said staff’s recommended option would see council use the same process that council currently uses when it considers rezoning applications for new liquor retail stores.
It would be “consistent with the current provincial licensing regime for liquor” because the provincial authority regulating the retail of recreational marijuana has also been regulating the retail of liquor.
“By amending these seven zones [where liquor can be sold] to include [non-medical cannabis retail stores] as a permitted use, individual applications for non-medical cannabis retail stores within the zoned areas could be issued a business license subject to compliance with locational or other guidelines adopted by [council] and subject to meeting all provincial licensing requirements,” it reads.
Council, in other words, would not need to re-invent the regulatory wheel when it comes to approving or rejecting recreational marijuana operations.
Of notable interest is staff’s reasoning against the other two options, starting with allowing recreational marijuana operations only in commercial zones that permit retail sales of goods and services.
“Option 3 is also not recommended based on the large number of sites where [retail sales of goods and services] is permitted by current zoning,” it reads.
Option 2 — location-by-location retail with a preference for designated centres and villages — runs the risk of creating too much bureaucracy, while bearing the seeds of neighbourhood conflict, the report notes.
“Option 2 is not recommended because it would not provide certainty to potential applicants that their applications would be supported if all requirements are met, it would require diligence on the part of interested residents, and community associations to monitor applications, and it would not allow for timely decision.”
Council will consider the recommendations Monday prior to staff bringing forward zoning bylaw amendments subject to a public hearing.
Staff prepared the report after council approved a “full” prohibition of the sale, production and distribution of recreational cannabis until staff have had an opportunity to review federal and provincial legislation.