Pubdate: Wed, 06 Sep 2017
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network
Author: Bill Kaufmann
Page: A6


Regulatory burden has fallen unfairly on towns like hers, says Nelson

While provincial governments want more time to determine how they'll
handle legalized pot, the mayor of Nelson, B.C., wished it happened

And, no, Deb Kozak isn't a massive devotee of the B.C. bud that's made
her region of the West Kootenays a renowned producer of designer cannabis.

That sentiment comes from the headaches in regulating a cannabis
retail industry she says has been foisted on her town of 10,500 by
higher levels of government well ahead of recreational legalization
scheduled for July 1, 2018.

"It's not a job for local government to be sanctioning an illegal
operation, and that's what we're doing," said Kozak.

Earlier this summer, Nelson lawmakers imposed regulations on half a
dozen medical marijuana dispensaries, most of which had set up in the
scenic town in the past three years.

Those include an annual $5,000 licensing fee, a requirement those
stores have two staffers working at all times and that they be located
a minimum distance from where children frequent.

It's also led to the City of Nelson creating another makeshift measure
for the dispensaries - temporary licences of occupation for up to
three years.

While those regulations have been generally adhered to, there's been
resentment and some pushback, said Kozak.

"They want their shops set up, but don't want any regulation," she
said, while returning to her call for Ottawa's intervention.

"Instead of (us) ending up with court injunctions, let's see how
quickly the feds put things into play."

The fear her town now has is that the six dispensaries that sell
marijuana, hash and edibles over the counter will be joined by a seventh.

"It'd be like having too many Tim Hortons on a block," said

Even so, she notes the "relaxed" attitude toward the drug that's long
prevailed in the area, adding those dispensaries don't appear to have
brought any social ills.

If anything, there are real health benefits, particularly when
compared with the effect of opioids that so easily go from pain
killing to lethal addiction, she said.

And the crops, particularly when they were strictly illicit, said
Kozak, brought considerable economic benefit to the area.

"It did help the economy in the community, especially in the 1980s -
we wouldn't have some of the restaurants if not for that black
market," she said.

Dispensary operator Frederick Pels said the City of Nelson initially
wanted to shut them down, but has come around to the idea.

"It was a rocky start but we want to be regulated and a part of the
community," said Pels, of The Green Room.

Pels said he's been pushing for a business licence in Calgary to
enable his shop in the city to sell cannabis on site, but added it's a
deal too far for city councillors - for now.

"Some of them were indifferent, they said it just wasn't on their
agenda," he said, adding he's met with most members of council.

"In B.C., it's been an industry for a long time, but we know there's a
good market in Alberta."
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