City council is onboard with a moderate approach to regulating cannabis retail sales in Salmon Arm.
At their Monday, Aug. 27 meeting, mayor and council adopted the Cannabis Retail Stores policy as well as gave three readings to related bylaw pertaining to business licensing fees.
The policy will serve as a guide for council, staff and cannabis retailers on how cannabis retail licence referrals from the B.C. government are evaluated. It also outlines procedure for related business licence applications.
While there were some concerns with the policy and bylaw, councillors were unanimous in their support of both.
“To me, what was clear from public input, was the community wanted and was willing to accept a moderate regulation option, and I think staff has brought forward a very moderate regulation options,” commented Coun. Kevin Flynn. “Whether I agree completely with a couple of the decisions, I think I will still vote very much in support of the recommendation.”
At a prior development and planning meeting, city development and planning director Kevin Pearson explained the policy takes a moderate approach to regulation, requiring no amendments to the city’s zoning bylaw, but establishes limitations in terms of location. For example, the policy discourages a cannabis retail sales outlet being located within 500 metres of a school.
The policy also identifies a downtown core commercial area, and recommends no more than four cannabis retail outlets be located within.
In addition, the policy recommends cannabis retail stores not be located in a building that also contains residential units, noting odour from unpackaged cannabis may or may not infiltrate building walls and air circulation systems.
Pearson stressed that ultimately it will be up to council to decide if it supports an cannabis retail business application and its proposed location.
“With all these location criteria, at the end of the day, and despite the zoning of the property, council still has to make a decision whether to support a store or not,” said Pearson.
Explaining the application process, Pearson said all applications for a cannabis retail business would be initiated with the B.C. government via Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch. From there, applications are referred to the municipality involved.
“When the city receives an application, it’s very similar to when we receive a liquor licensing application, the difference is there will be a public process involved, similar to… a temporary use permit because there will be an ad in the newspaper… and all properties within 30 metres of the proposed retail outlet will receive notification of a hearing date,” explained Pearson.
With the proposed bylaw, Pearson explained the annual business licence fee of $200 to $400 (depending on floor area) be will be applicable, as well as an additional $1,000 non-refundable surcharge that would cover related city expenses including staff time and advertising.
“And we really should have something similar to this for liquor licences but we don’t right now,” Pearson added.
The proposed policy stems from a public consultation process, that included a well-attended public meeting in April, as well as input from council.
Pearson noted the city can expect to receive its first application referrals soon.
Asked about current businesses selling cannabis products for medicinal use, Pearson said he would be leaving that up to the provincial government.
“They’re the primary licensing agency involved with this,” said Pearson. “It would be like somebody opening up a liquor store that’s not licensed by the province. It wouldn’t be the city dealing with the enforcing of that.”
Federal regulation states storefront operations selling marijuana, “commonly known as ‘dispensaries’ or ‘compassion clubs,’ are not authorized to sell cannabis for medical or any other purposes. The federal government states these operations are illegally supplied, and provide products that are unregulated, selling product that “may be unsafe,” and are subject to law enforcement action.
In approving the policy, Coun. Ken Jamieson noted this did not equate to advocacy of cannabis use.
“I think one of the important points the medical officer made… was to try to delay first-time use of cannabis. And that’s a really important consideration for us… the longer the delay is from the first time use of marijuana or cannabis the better,” said Jamieson. “And this report is in no way advocacy of the use of cannabis, it’s just a recognition that… we will provide opportunities for people to buy legal product. My suggestion is we make sure it’s as far away from kids as possible.”