Pubdate: Fri, 30 Sep 2016
Source: Nelson Star (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Black Press
Author: Bill Metcalfe


Politicians from three BC communities - Nelson, Merritt, and Squamish
- - led discussions about marijuana dispensaries at the annual meeting
this week of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) in Vancouver.

Those three communities have handled the current regulatory
uncertainties very differently, said Mayor Deb Kozak of Nelson in a
phone interview from Vancouver with the Star.

"Squamish took the approach that they would licence them at $5,000 a
year," said Kozak, "and they have rules about where you can have
dispensaries, and how many, and they don't allow them on the main
drag. Their bylaw was challenged in court and the judge upheld the

She explained that Merritt has attempted to simply outlaw

"But they still keep popping up. They are trying to keep them out
until things get legalized [by the federal government]."

Kozak told the UBCM audience that, "Nelson doesn't license illegal
operations, so we are not collecting licence fees from them. But we
explained how we are monitoring them, and that we have closed down a
couple of them because they were not operating in a responsible
fashion. And we said we are in the process of developing bylaws in
anticipation of legalization."

She said the three presentations provoked lively discussion.

"People are concerned about when, where, and how to. People don't want
their main street filled with [pot] shops, but neither does Nelson. We
don't think it is healthy to have a lot of those shops on the main
street. We want to have things in balance."

She said that although the interest in medical marijuana varies among
municipalities, most of them were concerned about what will happen
with legalization and are unsure how to prepare for it. She said the
examples of Nelson, Squamish and Merritt showed a range of

Kozak said she was asked why the city simply does not shut all
dispensaries down. She said the city does not actually have the
authority to shut down a business unless they do something illegal or

The city does have the authority to fine them up to $500 per day for
operating without a licence, but they have not done this either.

"We come back to the tolerance in our community and the personality of
our community. But that does not mean we won't (change our approach).
Council will be discussing this again soon."

'There is so much more to our community than marijuana' Kozak said
while she was in Vancouver she was called by the BC Almanac on CBC
radio asking her to come on the air to talk about marijuana.

Kozak is familiar with outside journalists' obsession with pot and
hippies whenever Nelson is mentioned.

"Honest to God, it just drives me bonkers," she told the

So she told BC Almanac, "You know, I would really like to talk about
something else about Nelson.There is so much more to our community
than marijuana.

"And I rattled off a few things, I talked about arts and culture,
about education, about downtown planning, and about the short-term
rental discussion we have been having."

So BC Almanac changed the direction of the show and asked her to come
on the air and talk about the work Nelson did this summer in preparing
to regulate short-term accommodations as part of a show about housing.

"The slant I took was that Nelson is out in front in thinking about
short-term rentals," she said. That's another discussion Kozak
contributed to later in the conference.
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