Pubdate: Wed, 06 Jul 2016
Source: Osoyoos Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Osoyoos Times
Author: Richard McGuire


It's rare that Osoyoos town council splits on an issue, but that 
happened Monday on the issue of medical marijuana outlets.

The issue arose as council debated a staff recommendation to bring in 
a zoning bylaw that would effectively prohibit all marijuana 
operations except medical marijuana grow operations on land zoned as 

To be clear, none of council opposes medical marijuana for those who 
need it, and none support unrestricted retail outlets.

The debate was whether the town needs a bylaw that Alain Cunningham, 
director of planning and development services, described as "a 
temporary and transitional zoning amendment" until the federal 
government clarifies the law on sales of medical marijuana.

The government is expected to announce its position in August.

In the end, council approved the first two readings of the 
restrictive zoning bylaw by a vote of 3-2 and set a July 18 date for 
a public hearing at 4 p.m.

Opposing the bylaw were councillors Mike Campol and C.J. Rhodes, 
while councillors Jim King and Carol Youngberg, along with Mayor Sue 
McKortoff, were in favour.

Rhodes and Campol argued that the bylaw is unnecessary because 
existing zoning and criminal laws are sufficient.

"RCMP are standing by federal law at this point," said Campol. "Any 
businesses that attempt to open and break the federal law have been 
dealt with by the RCMP. I don't see the need for this particular law 
and I would move ... that we not take any action."

Rhodes concurred.

"I too have a very optimistic point of view when it comes to where 
our federal legislation is going over the next little while," he 
said. "I do see the importance of zoning ... but I don't want to 
engage in a process right now that sends out a message of 
intolerance... We already have all the tools necessary in front of us."

King argued against Campol's motion not to bring in the bylaw.

"I don't think any of us are against the sale of medical marijuana," 
he said. "We just want to have a degree of control where it's located 
so it doesn't impact the neighbours that it might be around."

Youngberg argued that medical marijuana is readily available to those 
with a doctor's prescription - an argument that Campol challenged.

McKortoff pointed out that the town sought legal advice on they issue 
and lawyers investigated it and advised that council and staff 
continue to deny business licenses to marijuana operations until the 
federal government enacts revised laws.

Cunningham, the planning director, said the situation of medical 
marijuana is uncertain currently.

"As a professional planner, I would always recommend as a matter of 
social policy, environmental policy or economic policy that in 
situations of uncertainty, you proceed with due prudence," he said. 
"After all, they're only going to be waiting a month or two before we 
get information from the federal government and council has the 
opportunity to digest it and come up with a made-in-Osoyoos solution 
for what they want to see happen in this town."

In his written report, Cunningham points out that the legal opinion 
distinguishes between two separate federal initiatives - one, 
expected in August, to clarify medical marijuana sales and the other, 
expected in 2017, to legalize recreational use.

"A proliferation of marijuana outlets could seriously impact the 
attractiveness of our downtown and other public areas with consequent 
repercussions for the health of other local businesses, our tourist 
industry and retirement market, and the development and retail 
sectors," Cunningham wrote.

Campol, who said he'd "done a lot of research on this subject," took 
exception to this statement, calling it "somewhat speculative." He 
argued that the retirement sector of Osoyoos "is probably the largest 
user of medical marijuana in our community."

Both he and Rhodes argued that council would be going ahead with a 
zoning bylaw without a clear understanding of what model medical 
marijuana retailing will take.

Rhodes said he's "been in dozens or seen many" marijuana retail 
outlets while gathering information.

"Most of them are very attractive stores that sell a product that is 
determined to be what it is," he said. "They're clean, well-run and 
people are very friendly. To pre-zone without knowing what the final 
result's going to be ... is a little premature in my opinion."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom