Pubdate: Wed, 30 Aug 2017
Source: North Island Gazette (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Black Press
Author: Hanna Petersen


The future of marijuana in Port Hardy was examined at the first
marijuana advisory planning committee meeting.

Nine community members participated in the meeting, including chair
and Port Hardy Coun. Leightan Wishart, RCMP Staff Sgt. Wes Olsen, and
Elizabeth Aman-Hume Director of Port Hardy Chamber of Commerce, in the
district council chambers on Aug. 23.

"I am very much interested in this on a business level," said Serena
Neumerschitsky, a new Port Hardy resident who volunteered to be Deputy
Chair of the committee.

"I think that if we work together and create a business we can look at
that as something giving back to the community."

Wishart also clarified the direction of the meeting. "The purpose of
this committee is to make a recommendation to council and it's going
to be council's decision in the end," said Wishart, adding Mayor Hank
Bood felt he should form the committee to gather information from the

Three areas were discussed at the meeting, including buffer zones -
meaning where dispensaries will be allowed, the number of dispensaries
allowed, and mixed use zoning, i.e. whether they can be combined with
other businesses.

Within an hour, the committee had come to a consensus on all three
topics of discussion.

They recommended 100m buffer zone from schools and playgrounds, a
limit of two dispensaries, and no mixed use zoning.

"We know the feds are doing this, but the province has been mute - the
issue is we are trying to be proactive," said Heather Nelson-Smith,
District of Port Hardy Director of Corporate Services, who facilitated
the meeting.

Olsen agreed, stating "this is all speculation until the government
comes out and spells out what this is going to entail - we are trying
to be proactive in the fact that if they don't have those conditions
we can talk about where we want to have it in our community."

The committee mentioned Cumberland as a model or reference point.
Cumberland allows a limit of two dispensaries under a temporary use
license, which must be located in a specific block in their downtown
core on Dunsmuir Avenue, and they do not allow mix-use zoning.

A discussion of the number of disposers to be allowed followed. "In a
town as small as ours, we don't need that many dispensaries," said
committee member Dave Johnson.

"Being a business in Port Hardy for as long as I have, it's pretty
difficult in general - if you spread it out to 10, or even six, no one
is going to be successful," said Bruce Dirom, owner of Hardy Buoys
Smoked Fish. "If you want it as a stand alone business, you have to
have fewer of them so it can be successful."

Nelson-Smith also mentioned Port Alberni, who said dispensaries cannot
be combined with any other business.

"The reason is they didn't want them to have them all over the place,
they didn't want someone with a clothing store to suddenly say 'oh I
sell pot on the side,'" said Nelson-Smith.

After the committee ruled in favour of stand alone dispensaries and
against mixed-use zoning, the topic of consumption was then addressed.

"If you are going to say you can't smoke anywhere outside, but you are
going to sell it, give the people a place to go," said

"If we stay really open minded about things like a vape lounge, where
someone can go buy and smoke, we can really dominate the tourism industry."

Staff Sgt. Wes Olsen noted another consideration.

"I'd like to see how the law plays out on the vape lounge - that
becomes like a licensed beverage room where you can consume liquor and
that's provincially regulated," he said, adding "It's like the wild
west, because as soon as the starting gun goes off it's going to be a
big race, and the regulations are going to have to catch up."

The committee compromised, deciding to recommend testing on-site
rather than a lounge that would allow people to stay for lengthy
periods of time.

The 100m buffer zone away from schools and playgrounds would also
likely place zoning for dispensaries within the southern end of Market

Nelson-Smith said the next step for the committee is to compile
questions to be included in a survey which will be sent out to the
businesses on Market street, as well as the rest of the community in
order to receive feedback on the committee's recommendations.
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MAP posted-by: Matt