Pubdate: Wed, 06 Dec 2017
Source: Prince George Citizen (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Prince George Citizen
Author: Arthur Williams
Page: 4


Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris said the provincial government
has made a good first step on regulating recreational marijuana use,
but the issue is complex and a lot of work remains to be done.

On Tuesday, the NDP government unveiled plans which will set the
minimum age for marijuana use at 19, see recreational marijuana
distributed through the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch and pledged to
develop a retail model with both public and private sellers (see
related story).

"I'm glad to see they've arranged for a point for the distribution,"
Morris said. "There needs to be strict controls who whoever grows it.
They need to control the quality... and the THC content of the drug.
Public health is one of the big concerns we had."

Having a government agency act as the sole wholesale purchaser and
distributor of recreational marijuana will allow more control over who
is producing the drug and how it is grown, Morris said.

Morris, who worked on the issue as the former minister of public
safety and solicitor general in the previous Liberal government, said
there are 18 separate pieces of provincial legislation affected by the
federal government's move to legalize recreational pot use.

Although the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch will act as the
wholesaler, Morris said B.C. Liquor Stores and private cold beer and
wine stores shouldn't be the point of sale to the public. Both the
federal and provincial governments heard concerns from addictions
experts that alcohol and marijuana shouldn't be sold in the same locations.

"I hope we see a completely separate store front," Morris

Another major concern is making sure organized crime gangs, which
currently grow and sell recreational marijuana, are driven out of
business, he said.

"We have to ensure the price is kept as low as possible to discourage
the black market," Morris said. "One of the concerns I have is
whatever we do, particularly in the private sector, we have to keep
them feeling safe from intimidation and blackmail (by gangs)."

Another issue yet to be resolved will be when and where people can
consume marijuana products.

"From a smoking perspective, the same regulations are going to be in
place as for tobacco smoking," Morris said. "Medical research has
shown there is as many harmful chemicals in (secondhand) marijuana
smoke as in tobacco."

But regulating the consumption of edible marijuana products -
including dealing with issues like whether bars be able to serve them
- - is complex, Morris said, and has caused problems in many other
jurisdictions which have legalized marijuana.

'They've got a lot of work ahead of them," Morris said.

City alters pot zoning

The provincial announcement came the day after Prince George city
council revised its zoning regulations regarding the production of
medical marijuana.

On April 13, 2015, city council adopted a bylaw which regulated
medical marijuana production facilities as a land use within city
limits, city planning and development manager Ian Wells wrote in a
report to city council. The bylaw was compliant with federal law at
the time, but a Supreme Court ruling in June 2015 overturned part of
the federal regulations.

The regulations were repealed, and in Aug. 24, 2016 created a new set
of regulations governing Agricultural Land Commission rules for
medical marijuana production.

"This change specifically identified that activities designated as a
farm use includes the production of marihuana in accordance with the
relevant federal regulations," Wells wrote in his report. "ALC
regulation indicates that designated farm uses (i.e. the production of
marihuana) must not be prohibited 'by any local government bylaw.'"

The city's previous regulations required a one kilometre setback from
residential property and correctional facilities for medical marijuana
producers in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Those were removed, and instead medical marijuana production was
designated as agriculture, intensive impact, such as mushroom farms,
poultry and livestock barns.

Under those rules, there is a 30-metre minimum setback from property
lines, a 150m setback from parks and schools, and a 60m setback from
non-agricultural residential uses unless some form of natural buffer
is used.

"This only impacts the agricultural zone. It doesn't apply to the
city's industrial zoning," Wells said. "We don't anticipate this
having any impacts."

Wells said he doesn't anticipate any medical marijuana producers
looking to locate in the city's agricultural areas.

"To make this distinct, this is specifically to do with medical
marijuana, not to do with recreational marijuana, which will be
legalized by the federal government next year," Coun. Garth Frizzell
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MAP posted-by: Matt