A trio of Sidney councillors questions why their colleagues support language that requires the municipality to notify local schools, daycares and parents advisory groups – including those in North Saanich – about an upcoming meeting concerning what could be Sidney’s first cannabis retail store.
But supporters of the additional notification pointed to a letter from Island Health (VIHA) signed by top public health doctors in which they call on municipal governments to “[ensure] local retail sales of non-medical cannabis should be limited to reduce the unintended exposure by youth and harmful patterns of consumption in the general population.”
Couns. Sara Duncan, Scott Garnett and Peter Wainwright voted against the additional language after Sidney council, meeting as a committee, received a revised application from Happy Buddha Cannabis.
Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith joined Couns. Barbara Fallot, Terri O’Keeffe, and Chad Rintoul in support of the language.
Wainwright said the additional notification would not only be onerous on staff, but also send a questionable message.
“By expanding beyond what we have done for Gateway [and other controversial projects] in the past, it would appear we are sending a message that ‘something really evil is being proposed. We want to make sure everybody in the world knows about it and we strongly want you to write us your objections’,” he said.
Duncan agreed and wondered by Sidney would solicit input from voices outside the community. If parents are concerned about the proposed retail operation, they will make their voices heard, she said. “I don’t see any reason why a daycare in North Saanich and the small children who go there would be at a risk from the legal operation of a facility [in Sidney].”
Duncan also questioned why Sidney is subjecting the proposed sale of cannabis to greater scrutiny than alcohol.
The language calling for the additional notification originated from O’Keeffe, who pointed to the letter. “It [cannabis] is something that does have a negative impact on youth as outlined by Island Health, so I think it is reasonable to reach out specifically to parents of youth to allow them to opportunity to provide input if they wish,” she said.
Coun. Barbara Fallot said the municipality is not trying to “turn back the clock” on the legality. “Cannabis is legal — fair enough,” she said. “But is there any impact in our community [concerning] where the store is located? If there is a difference between a store being in one location and another, maybe that is something that we need to consider.”
Council’s division over the notification — later unanimously ratified as part of a larger package of consultation measures — mirrored its earlier disagreements about the application in October 2019, when council voted 4-3 against the application.
The application is set for public hearing in the fall.
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