Kelowna council being asked to support licenced private pot shop recommendation for B.C.

But city staff want to see dispensaries regulated by both the province and local government

Kelowna city staff say cannabis should only be sold from storefront dispensaries licenced by the provincial government and under rules similar to existing liquor stores. And their locations and operations should be controlled by municipal land use zoning and bylaws.

Those are the key recommendations in a report to go to city council Monday morning after the province asked municipalities across the B.C. for input about how marijuana and cannabis products should be distributed once the federal government makes them legal next July.

The Kelowna staff report says a model similar to that currently used in B.C. to sell alcohol would be most familiar across the province. It would also ensure municipalities can control where storefront dispensaries are located to make sure they are not set up near schools or parks.

“A provincial licensing system with fees for dispensaries similar to licensee retail store liquor sales model (should be used),” says the report. “A provincial branch and inspection model should also mirror the LCLB (Liquor Control and Licencing Branch) model.”

The province should also allow municipal control over the number of licences issued for storefront dispensaries, as well as the location and the size, says the report, and the province should indicate a minimum distance between cannabis storefront dispensaries and retail liquor stores.

Other recommendations include the minimum age for cannabis consumption should be the same or higher than it is for alcohol (19) and the maximum possession amount for adults should be 30 grams. Youths should not be allowed to possess it, but if they are found with up to five grams in their possession, there should be no charges, just confiscation.

Staff are also recommending the province restrict consumption of cannabis products in publicly accessible places to specific “marijuana smoking areas.”

The report says the city should be allowed to regulate personal cultivation of cannabis plants with permits for home growing. Four plants per household should be the maximum and no plant should be more than one metre in height. Growing should be prohibited inside residences of all buildings in residential areas. The B.C. Building Code should also be updated to mitigate potential negative impacts of home growing operations.

The recommendations will go to Kelowna city council for consideration at its morning meeting on Monday.

The Kelowna recommendations differ from what West Kelowna council decided to forward to Victoria earlier this week. West Kelowna council wants cannabis products to be sold only through government-operated stores. But it said if dispensaries are allowed, it should have the power to regulate them through municipal zoning.

Currently, Kelowna city hall says it knows of nine private dispensaries operating in the city. Unlike West Kelowna, it has not issued any business licences to dispensary operators so it cannot follow its neighbour’s lead and cancel the licences in a bid to shut down existing private storefront dispensaries.

But Kelowna city clerk Stephen Fleming said anyone inquiring about opening a dispensary in Kelowna is told such operations are illegal and operators could be subject to enforcement action.

“(Those inquiries) have happened and are happening,” he said.

The issue of private, storefront dispensaries has become an issue in towns and cities across the province in recent years and in the Okanagan, municipalities have held meetings at the staff and political levels to discuss coordinating a unified response.

In April, Kelowna amended its zoning bylaw to prohibit storefront sales of cannabis products because, in Canada, they are currently illegal.

At the time, the city’s community planning manager Ryan Smith said dispensary operators should take a second look at what they are doing in Kelowna.

“If you own a dispensary and you are doing storefront dispensing of marijuana, I think that you should rethink the model that you’ve chosen and maybe take a step back and try to focus on a different business model rather than retailing marijuana until we know what the rules are going to be from the federal and provincial governments,” he said.

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