Canada will be entering a brave new world once recreational cannabis use and retail is legalized on Oct. 17.
Here is how local municipalities and regional districts plan on dealing with legalization.
The Liquor Distribution Branch under the brand BC Cannabis Stores will open online sales on Oct. 17, but only one bricks-and-mortar store in Kamloops is ready to go, with municipal approval expected in time for the federal government’s legalization to begin.
Private store applications have to go through extensive background and security checks to make sure they aren’t linked to organized crime gangs that have controlled much of the street sales of marijuana.
B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said a lot of work has gone into ensuring the online system is ready for the new reality of legal marijuana, which Canada is the second country after Uruguay to make legal nation-wide. The province signed deals with 32 federally licensed producers in July, and was planning to have 150 strains of cannabis available through its monopoly wholesale and online sales.
Smithers council last Tuesday at its last meeting before Saturday’s election got back a consultant report after public input, including 956 survey respondents. In the end, council decided to not have Town staff approve any retail licenses until a bylaw was passed on rules around where cannabis can be sold and used.
The presentation by consultants Liliana Dragowska and Alison Watson — two former Town planners — included a 150-metre buffer zone around schools. The only school to affect business areas was Muheim Memorial, which was close enough to Main Street as to make the southeast half of downtown outside the proposed allowed retail zone.
Second-hand smoke was also a major concern for those surveyed, but an outright ban was debated by council with Coun. Phil Brienesse vehemently advocating a ban in public space, and Coun. Gladys Atrill pointing out that would effectively make it illegal for anyone who did not own private property like renters.
Of those who took the survey, 626 were from Smithers, 246 from Bulkley Valley and 84 from Telkwa. Only two per cent were under 19, 52 per cent were 19-39, 38 per cent 40-64, and seven per cent 65 and older.
Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN)
The RDBN will follow the province’s rules on public consumption of cannabis.
The B.C. government has decided to allow cannabis use in public spaces where smoking tobacco and vaping are permitted.
The provincial fine for smoking cannabis in a prohibited place is set at $230, but only $58 for vaping.
No recreational cannabis products can be used on school property, but licensed medical cannabis can be used at school.
Beyond schools, indoor use can be allowed in designated areas. That includes hotel rooms if the hotel permits it, as well as designated rooms in hospitals, assisted living or retirement facilities. Regional or municipal parks are off limits, except for designated campsites.
Cannabis can also be used in recreational vehicles, campers and trailers if they are parked off the road where camping is allowed and being used as a private residence.
RDBN will treat production and processing of recreational cannabis the same as medical cannabis, according to a report by RDBN director of planning Jason Llewellyn.
Medical marijuana production facilities are allowed in agriculture and special light industrial zones. These areas are located 60 metres from a parcel line and 30 metres from a source of water such as a spring, lake or well.
Cannabis warehousing facilities will be allowed in light industrial and light industrial-contracting zones the report said.
Producing cannabis as part of a home occupation or under horticulture use is banned in RDBN.
Recreational cannabis can only be sold from British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) controlled retail stores and privately operated retail stores licensed by the LDB.
Municipalities and districts have the power to control where and when recreational cannabis retail can take place or choose to ban it completely.
RDBN will on rely on LDB referral process when evaluating where the sale cannabis can occur Llewellyn said in the report.
Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine (RDKS)
RDKS planning and development services manager Ted Pellegrino said his district rules regarding public consumption of cannabis will align with provincial rules.
RDKS is working on bylaws regulating where federally licensed production facilities can locate, Pellegrino said.
RDKS is also working on bylaws regulating retail locations and business hours.
A bylaw pertaining to these issues is expected to go to the board in November, Pellegrino said.
Village of Hazelton
The Interior News reached out to the village of Hazelton but did not receive a response in time for publication. The Village did have a public hearing on allowing retail sales in the C1 business area.
District of New Hazelton
New Hazelton will not allow the sale of cannabis within 200 metres of any schools or daycare, chief financial officer Robyn Carle said.
As previously reported by The Interior News Telkwa’s regulations regarding public consumption of cannabis will differ from the Province’s.
Public consumption of cannabis in Telkwa is banned.
The village is still looking into how it will handle retail sales of cannabis Telkwa mayor Darcy Repen said.
“It is a very challenging topic for a municipalities like Telkwa to deal with given our limited staffing capacity and the complexity of the issue,” Repen said. “We’re doing that we can with it but I think it is helpful to look at communities with a larger capacity, such as Smithers, that has the consultants working on it to be able to get a better idea of what the benefits and pitfall of legalization will look like.”