Victoria city council are moving forward to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries that have popped up on city streets, in an attempt to control a booming sector.
There are currently 38 known medical marijuana-related businesses operating in Victoria that sell marijuana paraphernalia, provide medical advice and/or manufacture products containing marijuana, only eight of which have business licences that allow for the sale of such products.
As part of the regulations brought forward by staff, storefront retailers must not be open between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., no individuals under the age of 19, no advertising to promote the use of marijuana to a minor, and health and safety warning signs must be posted on the premises. Marijuana must not be consumed on the premise and businesses must submit security plans, police information checks and proof of a security alarm contract.
Once regulations are in place, retailers would need to begin the rezoning process. The regulations also keep marijuana businesses 200 metres apart from each other, which could potentially reduce the number of shops in close proximity.
The cost of a rezoning process is $7,500. The bylaw also includes a $5,000 business licence fee for storefront retailers and $500 for marijuana-related businesses.
Council originally hoped for a 200 metre buffer between such businesses and licenced child care facilities, but staff have suggested scrapping the idea, saying it would be too restrictive.
During a meeting Thursday, mayor and councillors decided to move forward with the proposed changes. However, many expressed frustration with the lack of communication from the federal government, who have said they will be legalizing marijuana with a law expected to be tabled in spring 2017.
“I’m frustrated that we have to go down this road, but I think that we have to. It’s just the beginning of our work. We’ll be seeing 38 rezoning applications, lots of public discussion and public hearing,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “I strongly support us enforcing this. I expect that people will comply and if they don’t comply they’ll be fined $1,000 a day, or like Vancouver, we’ll have to seek an injunction.”
Coun. Jeremy Loveday was also in support of the motion, but expressed concern about where medical cannabis users will be able to take their medicine, if they’re not allowed to do so on the premise or, in many cases, are not permitted to do so in their homes.
“I do know there are patients who are suffering and marijuana is how they get through their days. They’re vulnerable people who get could evicted if they take it in their homes. There does need to be a place for them to do so,” he said.
Coun. Geoff Young was the only one to oppose the motion, adding the bylaw that doesn’t allow marijuana-related businesses to operate within 200 metres of each other is an unnecessary burden on staff.
“If one gets approved, the other gets disqualified. This is going to be a nightmare,” he said.