Pubdate: Thu, 02 Feb 2017
Source: Pique Newsmagazine (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Pique Publishing Inc.
Author: Lynn Mitges


Large crowd addresses council on proposed zoning bylaw amendment

It was standing room only on Tuesday, Jan. 31 as Village of Pemberton
(VOP) council undertook a meeting to gauge public opinion and the
course of action on a proposed zoning bylaw amendment to prohibit
medical marijuana dispensaries.

Roughly 20 people addressed the proposed change - some of whom made
emotional pleas to urge council to permit medical dispensaries in
order to treat chronic pain or health ailments.

Danielle Lawson, from Mt. Currie, told the crowd of her car accident a
few years ago that has left her with chronic pain and nausea.

"I tried everything else. I got a legal licence from Health Canada and
received medicine from them - it's (of) a horrible quality," Lawson
said, adding that she believes Health Canada irradiates the marijuana,
and likened it to poison.

"I have to go to Vancouver and Squamish and I can't always get it, and
then I'm sick," she told council, sobbing as she finished her address.

Council outlined the bylaw history, which began with the proprietor of
SWED Society requesting in October an amendment in order to allow
medical dispensaries in Pemberton.

SWED director of operations, Adam Blender, told the crowd and council
that the company was the first to be granted a licence in Vancouver,
which charges a $30,000 fee for the licence.

Blender said that waiting for the federal government to legalize
medical dispensaries could delay people getting what they need.

"Not everyone has all the time in the world," Blender said. "It could
be in December of 2017 by the time people have access."

Many people echoed Blender's observation that to rely on a federal
government timeline would make patients unduly suffer.

Cori Golanowski, with the Cannabis Rights Coalition of Canada, told
council that he works with cancer patients on a daily basis and
getting access to marijuana is the top priority.

"A big part of our community is going to Squamish to get it. We're
talking about people's lives," he said.

Squamish has allowed medical dispensaries, as Vancouver has and
several other B.C. communities. Whistler has not.

Pemberton doctor Jim Fuller said he is very interested in giving
patients access to medication to help them, particularly with
something that aids cancer patients, but isn't convinced of the
purported benefits for children with epilepsy, for example.

"I'm a little dubious," he said. "Sure, it clearly helps pain relief,
I don't believe there's any evidence on the international stage (for
epilepsy treatment). I'd be delighted if it was, but I just haven't
seen any evidence."

And Kalmia Hockin, who has lived in Pemberton for five years, spoke of
her legal licence for medical marijuana and how she receives the
product via mail.

"(Health Canada has) cannabis through legal markets, it's not only
through the stores. There are other resources out there. It is a
simple as getting a certain amount of grams per month. It's completely
legal that way," she said.

What Hockin said she does like about medical dispensaries is the basic
knowledge about products and how to get a medical licence.

"I had a lot of trouble finding out how to apply," she

One option that came up numerous times was the possibility of
approving a Temporary Use Permit (TUP), which could be granted by the
VOP and which can be granted for any time period and can be renewed
for up to three years. A TUP could be the solution and would not carry
any grandfathering of current conditions, said VOP planner Lisa
Pedrini. In other words, a TUP that sanctions a medical dispensary
would not carry over indefinitely when federal government legislation
comes into effect.

Local businessman David MacKenzie said he is torn over this issue, but
welcomes free enterprise.

"I think it's a wonderful new investment but I caution council in
moving forward with a bylaw that prohibits," he said. "Society is
evolving, things are changing rapidly. I encourage council to
reconsider. I can imagine the amount of staff time spent on this...
Other jurisdictions have figured it out."

MacKenzie said the TUP could remedy this without worrying about any
grandfathering issues that could come into play with bylaw changes.

Council also received via correspondence 15 letters, 11 of which were
opposed to the bylaw amendment, and four in support.

Ginny Stratton, the SWED Pemberton manager presented a petition with
279 signatories with overwhelming comments that are in favour of a
dispensary in the VOP.

"Currently, it's not working the way it is," she said, encouraging the
VOP to fulfill the right of residents to be able to access a medical

"Most viable is the TUP. We feel that would be another alternative to
review ... before making changes at local level," and while changes at
the federal level have yet to be confirmed.

Another concern was voiced by a resident of Elements, a strata
property in Pemberton. Myson Effa, who owns a condo in the building
that also has commercial space, said that if the medical dispensary
were permitted in the building, residents could be

"We could lose our insurance," Effa told council. "You're threatening
our life savings.

"We know marijuana is a great medicine. Soon the government will
legalize it for recreational use and I think that's not compatible
with residential stratas."

The decision on the bylaw now rests with council.
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MAP posted-by: Matt