Pubdate: Tue, 06 Feb 2018
Source: Metro (Vancouver, CN BC)
Copyright: 2018 Metro Canada
Author: Tessa Vikander
Page: 1


'Authority' included in new guidelines

According to the province's latest cannabis retail laws, announced
Monday in Victoria, city governments - such as Richmond - will be able
to decide whether to allow pot shops.

In the lead up to the federal government's July 1 marijuana
legalization deadline, the province's new guidelines lay out rules for
who can sell recreational cannabis where and when.

At a Feb. 5 press conference, Minister of Public Safety, Mike
Farnworth, said municipalities would have "the authority to make local
decisions, based on the needs of their communities."

"I know Richmond has said they don't want any in their community," he
said, "and I don't have a problem with that."

Richmond has adamantly opposed pot shops. In February 2017, the city
passed a zoning bylaw preventing marijuana dispensaries.

In October, all councillors voted in favour of asking the province to
allow the city to continue to ban pot shops once the substance is legalized.

Under the new B.C. regulations, people will be able to buy
recreational cannabis in government stores similar to government-run
liquor stores, and in private retail stores with rules similar to
those in place for privately-run liquor stores. But cities won't be
forced to grant pot shop licenses if they're not into it.

Cannabis advocate and lawyer, Kirk Tousaw, says the province's
decision to let cities decide whether to allow pot shops is consistent
with the local government act.

"You don't see the province forcing municipalities to have any kinds
of businesses," he said. For example, he said, there are still some
small towns in Canada that ban alchohol sales.

However, Tousaw doesn't think it's a wise decision for municipalities
to ban pot shops.

Richmond is "a massive population centre with a lot of people who both
want to buy cannabis in stores and engage in entrepreneurial small
businesses by selling," he said.

"I just think economically and socially it's a huge mistake to ban
these establishments," he said. "It's just going to force your
residents to cross an imaginary boundary (and go to the city next
door) to purchase their cannabis."

Farnworth said that even if cities or regional districts ban pot
shops, people won't be prevented from accessing legal cannabis
altogether. Instead, they'll be able to purchase it from an online
government store.

Malcolm Brodie, Richmond's mayor, wasn't available for an interview.
But at a Richmond city council meeting last October, councillors
expressed a variety of concerns over pot shops. Some said they were
concerned about the long-term health affects of marijuana use, while
others affirmed that Richmond is a conservative city focused on safety.

"This is a suburb," said Councillor Carol Day, as reported in a CBC
article. "We're not the heavy duty nightlife of Downtown Vancouver and
the action-packed thrill of adventure of Surrey. In Richmond, we tend
to live a more conservative lifestyle," she said.

Richmond staff also noted that pot-shop licensing and regulation would
come with a cost to the city.

With municipal elections scheduled across the province in October
2018, Tousaw warns that this could be a huge local election issue.

"People underestimate consistently how popular cannabis and
legalization of cannabis is. It's probably one of the most popular
topics in British Columbia politically," he said.

"I don't think it's politically or economically wise to sort of have
this dark ages ban on cannabis retailers."

However, Tousaw said that outside of large cities, B.C. is "a fairly
conservative province," and predicts that many districts and cities
will opt out of pot shops.

"There's at least a possibility that there'll be a lot of
municipalities that disallow cannabis retailers and that's going to be
problematic for people wanting access at a local level," he said.

- - With files from Wanyee Li

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B.C. rules

Where will it be sold?

People can buy cannabis in government shops or private retail stores,
with rules similar to those in place for liquor stores. What won't be
allowed: selling cannabis in the same store as liquor or tobacco.
Retailers in cities also won't be allowed to sell anything other than
cannabis and "cannabis accessories" in their stores.

Who can buy it?

Adults aged 19 or over can buy it, though there's a possession limit:
30 grams.

Where can it be used?

You won't be able to smoke cannabis inside a car - even if you're not
the driver. Landlords and strata councils can also ban tenants from
smoking in apartment and condo buildings. Otherwise, you will be able
to smoke in any public place where smoking is currently allowed. There
are some additional restrictions to keep pot smoke away from children:
no smoking on beaches, playgrounds and parks.

What about edibles?

The government will take another year to come up with regulations.
Until then, stores are not supposed to sell them.

Can I grow my own?

B.C. is allowing residents to grow up to four plants, as long as
they're not visible from "public spaces off the property." But
landlords and strata councils can prohibit tenants from growing plants.
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