Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper.

Column: Marijuana laws create zoning concerns

The Federal Cannabis Act is anticipated to be enacted in the spring or early summer 2018.

This means a new legal landscape for the recreational use of cannabis here in Canada. For municipalities this new law has significant implications and costs.

The legislation proposes to legalize the sale, growing and consumption of marijuana with a large menu of limitations and restrictions.

The provinces are expected, but so far not required, to implement corresponding legislation to assist with the regulation of the product, similar to how public and private liquor stores are licensed and regulated by the Provincial Liquor Control and Licensing Branch.

With this new legislation close on the horizon, municipalities and regional districts need where and what our provincial government controls will be and who will pay for the additional costs.

Local governments throughout Canada will need to make some decisions on how marijuana use in general fits within zoning bylaw and business licensing regimes, and many questions remain unanswered. For example, in Salmon Arm, will the sale of marijuana be allowed from any retail store, or only from a pharmacy, or will they be considered as a distinct dispensary requiring a special zone?

Should there be a cap on the number of retail dispensaries, and should the locations be restricted?

Up to four plants are allowed to be grown in a household.

How would a City regulate the number of plants growing in a household?

In the absence of Provincial regulations and inspectors, municipalities are expected to fill the enforcement void, meaning a demand and therefore additional cost for more bylaw enforcement, inspection and policing resources.

The legal opinion of the City of Salmon Arm’s corporate lawyers is that local governments will be faced with enforcement challenges.

They state that municipalities will be “key partners” in enforcing local zoning and density bylaws and building standards.

In addition, matters related to minimum age enforcement, personal cultivation, possession limits, smoking restrictions, and public nuisance complaints will all fall on local government enforcement services.

So as I stated at the beginning, who will be expected to pay for these additional costs?

The answer to this question and many others is still unclear.

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