With legalization of cannabis promised this summer, the unique challenges of regulating its sale in rural areas, were discussed at the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s (CSRD) April 19 Board meeting. The board directed regional district staff to create a cannabis policy and a public consultation plan that will let the public voice their opinion on the rules that will govern cannabis-related businesses.
The board received a presentation from regional district planner Jan Thingsted on possibilities for regulating the sale and consumption but also the cultivation of recreational marijuana within the CSRD’s rural areas.
The presentation detailed some of the specifics of the Cannabis Act, and the division of responsibility between federal, provincial and local governments. Local government responsibilities will include regulating how many cannabis sale and production facilities will be allowed and where they can be located. After providing background, Thingsted outlined the possible next steps the CSRD can take.
According to Thingsted the CSRD has responded to many enquiries from the public, application referrals and bylaw enforcement complaints about cannabis-related businesses. Interest in cannabis-related businesses have been documented in Electoral Area C, which spans the South Shuswap from Tappen to Sorrento, Area D, the Salmon Valley and Falkland, Area E, Malakwa and the surrounding area and also in Area F, the North Shuswap.
Thingted provided examples of how nearby jurisdictions are handling cannabis regulations. The Thompson Nicola Regional District are attempting to pass an outright prohibition on cannabis sales in their rural areas, at least until they have more information from higher levels of government. The regional District of the North Okanagan is seeking a similar prohibition in three of its electoral areas. The City of Salmon Arm are in the process of consulting with the public to determine how they will regulate cannabis businesses.
Thingsted presented three possible options to the board: A standalone cannabis policy, a policy coupled with amendments to existing bylaws and a policy as well as a new bylaw governing cannabis sales that would apply to the entire regional district. He said a policy could effectively provide guidelines for the approval of future cannabis businesses and be easily tailored to suit the needs of each electoral area.Thingsted added because legalization could be coming as soon as July 1, leaving only two board meetings to finalize a policy or amend bylaws, the policy-only option is staff’s preference.
CSRD Electoral Area F director Larry Morgan raised questions about how the public would be consulted on their views on cannabis regulation in the CSRD. Thingsted said the best way to solicit comments from the public would be through the CSRD’s website as they did for the noise bylaw in 2017. He added the consultation process could begin in two or three weeks and some of it’s findings could be presented to the board alongside a draft cannabis policy at an upcoming meeting.
Paul Demenok, the director for Electoral Area C said he recognizes legalization is coming soon and time is of the essence, but a bylaw is necessary to make enforcement easier. Demenok was particularly concerned with the issue of public consumption; he said regulations preventing consumption of cannabis in public parks should either be added to the existing bylaw prohibiting alcohol consumption, or a new bylaw should be written.
CSRD chief administrative officer Charles Hamilton replied that because of time constraints it would be prudent for the regional district to begin developing a policy and then work to amend or create new bylaws in the future if they are necessary. He said once the policy is in place there will be time to identify any outstanding issues with public consumption or any other concerns and address them.