Pubdate: Wed, 07 Sep 2016
Source: Penticton Herald (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Joe Fries
Page: A1


City staff working on rules to govern pot shops before Ottawa moves to
decriminalize drug

Penticton is set to become the first community in the Okanagan to
regulate the budding medical marijuana dispensary business.

Council by a 5-2 vote on Tuesday directed staff to begin consulting
with the public and drafting rules to govern pot shops ahead of the
federal government's planned decriminalization of marijuana.

Other communities in B.C. that have adopted a similar stance include
Victoria, Squamish and Port Alberni.

"It gives us a chance to stop seeing it as a risk but as an
opportunity and a chance to work with the federal government to push
this forward," said Coun. Tarik Sayeed, who voted in favour of the

City staff was ordered to come up with some ideas to handle the thorny
issue of pot shops after council earlier this summer cancelled the
business licences for three marijuana dispensaries.

Under the direction agreed to by council Tuesday, staff will consult
with pot shops and the public before bringing forward a suite of
proposed bylaw amendments to give the city some control over the
siting and operation of dispensaries, such as mandating a minimum
distance from schools and requiring strict security measures.

However, staff warned the city runs the risk its rules won't be
compatible with whatever is rolled out by the federal government next
year when it introduces legislation to decriminalize weed.

That uncertainty prompted Couns. Campbell Watt and Helena Konanz to
vote against moving ahead with local regulation.

"I look forward to having legal dispensaries, but I think with
(marijuana) being illegal for 100 years, we can probably wait a few
months or six months or a year for the federal government to give us
direction," said Konanz, adding she nonetheless recognizes the value
of medical marijuana. The same goes for Watt. "I can't personally see
making something legal municipally when it's not provincially or
federally," he said. Other options proposed by staff included an
outright ban, similar to what's in place in Osoyoos, and simply
turning a blind eye to dispensaries - as Vernon, Kelowna and West
Kelowna have done.

Council is expected to get its first look at proposed rules this

The push for regulations followed special appeal hearings this summer
during which council cancelled the business licences under which three
marijuana dispensaries were operating illegally.

Despite losing its licence, the Rush In and Finish Cafe is still open
and accumulating fines - yet unpaid - on a weekly basis, while Green
Essence and Avitas Pharmaco have since shut their doors.

A fourth dispensary is also in operation, but without a business
licence to pull.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt