By Lyonel Doherty
The Town of Oliver is trying to identify the most suitable zones for the retail sale of cannabis this year.
On Monday, council discussed zoning regulations pertaining to the legal sale of recreational marijuana, which is to be legalized sometime this year.
Contract planner Christopher Garrish said staff identified the TC and C2 zones as the appropriate areas to sell cannabis. However, he did note this recommendation is not the result of broad consultation with the community.
“Instead, it is a reflection of these zones being primarily commercial in nature, encompassing traditional retail areas within the community.”
Garrish said TC and C2 are acronyms for commercial areas under the draft zoning bylaw, but under the current bylaw they reflect highway commercial and town centre.
Planning staff have compiled a list of possible regulations that could be applied to businesses engaged in the retail sale of cannabis. These include: a cannabis store must not sell, stock or advertise cannabis products as medicinal; may not operate within 150 metres of any park, school, library, daycare or medical facility; may not operate on a lot adjacent to a residential lot; and no cannabis product may be visible from a public space off the parcel.
Garrish said if council is not supportive of staff’s recommendation, other options are available including: permitting the sale of cannabis in all commercial zones that list “retail establishment” as a permitted use; or prohibiting the sale of cannabis in all zones.
Garrish pointed out that a lack of time to complete a comprehensive consultation program is a challenge considering current workloads.
On Monday, council directed staff to continue developing the bylaw including retail cannabis sales in the proposed TC and C2 zones.
Mayor Ron Hovanes said he is doubtful that legalization in Canada will occur in July or August. He suspects the legislation won’t happen until the fall.
The mayor still maintains legalizing cannabis is a form of downloading on municipalities, such as Oliver. He fears Town staff may be inundated with tasks pertaining to zoning and licensing requirements.
Corporate Officer Diane Vaykovich confirmed the Town would oversee the licensing of private retail outlets.
Councillor Dave Mattes said this “could be a walk through the flower patch or a walk through a mine field.”
However, he noted Oliver is fortunate to live close to a jurisdiction (Washington State) that already has these cannabis facilities.
“We could check with them. How onerous is it to manage these shops?”
As far as location goes, Hovanes said it wouldn’t bother him if cannabis is sold anywhere in the retail (commercial) sector.
Councillor Larry Schwartzenberger said cannabis will soon be a legal product so it should go where other legal products are sold downtown.