Marijuana rules will be ‘a work in progress’

A Vancouver councillor says marijuana rules will be ‘a work in progress’

The looming deadline for legalized marijuana has local governments in British Columbia crafting wish lists for provincial legislation, from where pot should be grown to how it should be sold.

Ottawa has said regulations must be in place by July 1 and the B.C. government announced last month that it wants public input on shaping the rules.

While some municipal politicians worry the timeline for regulations is too short, Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang thinks legalization can’t come soon enough.

Vancouver brought in a bylaw for medical marijuana dispensaries in April 2016, becoming the first municipality in Canada to regulate the outlets.

Data from the city shows 41 permits for medical marijuana-related businesses have been issued since the bylaw came into effect and Jang said he hasn’t heard a single complaint about those businesses.

But illegal shops continue to operate, too. The city is asking the court to shut down 53 businesses that are operating without permits and bylaw officers continue to hand out tickets to another 65 shops classified as “subject to enforcement.”

The province needs to create rules that will help strengthen and enforce the bylaw, but overall it’s been a success, Jang said.

Related: ‘Exploding’ marijuana industry threatens B.C. farmland

“It means that good operators who sell pot in a responsible way can continue to work and do business in the city of Vancouver and those who don’t gotta go.”

He wants recreational pot to be sold at independent stores under provincial regulations and said Vancouver’s bylaw could be used as a model across the province.

But Jang said it’s also important for municipalities to tailor the rules to fit their specific needs because each jurisdiction will have its own concerns.

“No matter what we do, it’s going to be a work in progress,” he said. ”It’s when the laws become static and don’t match what we need to do, conditions on the street, if you like, that this thing will not work very well.”

For Delta Mayor Lois Jackson, the concern is where marijuana will be grown.

Her suburban Vancouver community boasts some of the country’s best agricultural land. She said her staff have reported receiving between five and 10 calls per day from people who are interested in using that land to grow marijuana.

But the mayor doesn’t want to see the valuable soil all used to grow pot in the name of profit.

Related: Growing marijuana industry sparks new research around cannabis: scientists

“I do not want Delta to be the pot-growing capital of Canada,” she said. “I mean, we’ve got 22,000 acres of pretty great land that grows things all year round. And if it’s going to be allowed on all those acres, well, I don’t know if that’s the direction we should be going.”

Growing marijuana on agricultural land would likely mean big profits for farmers, but it could also create big problems for food security in the region, Jackson said.

Village Farms, which grows tomatoes in Delta, has announced plans to convert one of its greenhouses for marijuana cultivation. The company said in a release that cannabis is expected to be a ”substantially more profitable” crop.

Village Farms CEO Michael DeGiglio said he knows some politicians are against the move, but he doesn’t think their justification makes sense.

“It’s an agricultural crop,” he said in an interview. “I look at us as farmers. We’ve always been farmers. … We’re not the ones who made a certain crop legal. We’re just reacting as a business.”

Jackson said she wants to see the provincial rules provide clarity around where cannabis can be grown and would prefer to see the rules favour warehouses over farmland when it comes to cultivation.

In other parts of the province, local leaders want municipalities to have the power to decide where marijuana will be grown and sold based on their specific needs.

“What local government is saying is that we just want to make sure we have a say in the zones this type of commercial activity would take part in,” said Al Richmond, chair of the Cariboo Regional District in British Columbia’s Interior.

Some communities could choose to create zoning bylaws that prohibit marijuana retail outlets or growing operations in certain areas, he said.

But they wouldn’t be able to ban pot entirely.

“The debate about marijuana is not what we’re having now,” Richmond said. “It’s been legalized, the federal government said they’re going to legalize it. So, if it’s going to happen, let’s have it in a location that the community finds palatable.”

— Follow @gkarstenssmith on Twitter

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Nearly $500,000 available for internships with northern B.C. First Nations governments

Funds announced through partnership with Northern Development and Government of Canada

Terrace husband and wife honoured for saving each other’s lives

BC Ambulance presented each a Vital Link Award for separate incidents of CPR

$15 million spent on cancelled transmition line

BC Hydro had already spent approximately $15 million on planning a new… Continue reading

College buys a yurt to boost student success

Round tent-like structure part of college instructional shift

New funding available for industry innovation

Northern Development Initiative Trust opened new funds, focused on areas impacted by the pine beetle

Solitary-confinement veto a chance to address mental health: advocate

B.C. Supreme Court made the landmark ruling Wednesday

Winter storm coming to B.C. this weekend

The bets are on as to how much snow the province will actually get in the coming days

B.C. civil rights group files complaint about RCMP arrest of man who later died

Dale Culver, a 35-year-old Indigenous man was arrested in Prince George last July

Lawyer says former B.C. government aide ‘barely guilty’ in ethnic vote scandal

Brian Bonney pleaded guilty to a breach of trust charge

Quite a few tears as homemade quilts distributed to residents of Ashcroft Reserve, Boston Flats affected by last summer’s fire

Quilters in B.C. and Alberta worked through the summer and fall to create more than 100 quilts.

Island Health: No need for alarm in wake of Victoria needle-prick incidents

Three incidents in a week prompts meeting between health authority, city service providers

B.C. coast loggers celebrate history, hope for improvement

Truck Loggers Association awaits B.C. NDP government’s new direction

Global Affairs aware of report of two Canadians kidnapped in Nigeria

The foreigners were heading south from Kafanchan to Abuja when they were ambushed around Kagarko

Whistler role in potential Calgary Olympic bid would be welcome: IOC

Calgary is mulling whether to vie for the 2026 Games, and could look to facilities in B.C.

Most Read