How the city is taking action on cannabis dispensaries

Many people wonder why and how the city is regulating, rather than just closing them down

By Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps

Downloading of responsibilities from senior levels of government to municipalities is a big concern for local governments and property taxpayers alike. Over the past two years city council has been forced, once again, to push the limit of what counts as a municipal issue and step in to regulate cannabis dispensaries.

Many people wonder why and how the city is regulating dispensaries rather than just closing them down. What is the ‘grey-area?’ Isn’t the law black and white?

With the emergence of cannabis storefronts in the city, police investigated, made arrests and recommended charges to federal Crown counsel. This came on the heels of changes to federal regulations regarding access to medical cannabis. When the issue of access to medical cannabis went to the Supreme Court of Canada, it was determined that the burden of proof was not as simple as proving the act of trafficking. It had to be proven that cannabis was being sold for recreational use and not for medicinal use. As a result, charges were dropped on more than one occasion.

We realized that while the courts were grappling with the issue of access to medical cannabis and until the law was clarified by the highest court or the federal government, the likelihood of obtaining convictions for trafficking from a storefront was tenuous at best. We also started to hear from patients, including many seniors, who needed access to medicine.

In response to these concerns, the city put in place a regulatory regime using the tools it has as a local government — our zoning bylaw and business licence bylaw.

Dispensaries are required to have on-site security systems, ventilations systems, criminal records check for the applicant and on-site manager, ban consumption on the premises, prohibit minors, have on-site video cameras and a minimum of two staff present at all times.

In addition, each dispensary is required to apply for a rezoning. This is a public process which ends with a formal opportunity for public comment at a public hearing before council makes a decision.

To date, 29 dispensaries have applied for rezoning applications. Eleven have not. Thanks to the owners of the 29 dispensaries for playing by the rules and coming into compliance with the city’s regulations. For those who have not yet applied, I am getting impatient and the city will be taking action.

On July 1, 2018 federal legislation legalizing cannabis comes into effect. Before then, the city will work with the province, which is in charge of coming up with a distribution regime, and share our learnings from the process to date. And, as soon as provincial and federal legislation comes into effect, the city’s regulatory regime will be reviewed and adjusted if needed.

This change cannot come soon enough. We look forward to handing this issue back to the higher levels of government so we can continue to focus on what are properly municipal issues.

editor@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Launch party for Vancouver Island’s new soccer team a success

Over 3,000 seats will be added to Westhills Stadium in the next 6 months

Two people rescued after falling from lifeboat at Ogden Point

Crew members of the Explorer of the Seas cruise ship fell into the water Thursday night

Saanich pedestrian incidents reflect recent trends

76% of crashes involving pedestrians happen at intersections

Online blasting video helps ease Sooke residents concerns

Complaints of dust ongoing since 2017

Son of missing Oak Bay woman asks for continued public support

‘Because she is still out there, somewhere’

BC Games’ Athletes Corner: What’s your favourite pump up song?

Check out what’s playing in the earbuds of BC Summer Games athletes before they compete

Big-time racing on tap in Langford this month

Western Speedway the place to be for a roaring good time in summer

BC Wildfire update on Okanagan blazes

Watch the media briefing on the current fire situation in the Okanagan.

Zone 6: Rugby star Maggie Banks carries family legacy to BC Games

Shawnigan Lake student and Coquitlam native following her parents to the national program

RCMP help to save goats from wildfire

The fast-approaching wildfire, sparked Thursday, forced the evacuation of five homes

VIDEO: Near drowning captured on popular B.C. river

Search and Rescue manager says the popular pastime of floating in the summer is inherently dangerous

Crosswalk vandalism leaves black mark for Cowichan as B.C. Games begin

Rainbow crosswalk defaced just days after being painted

Photo gallery: BC Games Day 1

A brief look at action from the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

UPDATED: Anti-pipeline campers digging in as eviction deadline expires

The City of Burnaby had ordered the Kinder Morgan pipeline protesters out for violating bylaws

Most Read