Marijuana dispensaries like this one are still illegal. - Image: David Montero/Los ANgeles Times/TNS

Kelowna plans to change pot bylaw

A plan to make dispensaries illegal in the city is short-sighted, according to marijuana activist

A plan to ban pot shops in Kelowna while the federal government completes the legalization process is not in the city’s best interest, says a would-be proprietor.

“Realistically, legalization could still be two years away and in that time, youth will continue to have unregulated access, citizens will continue to be arrested, draining much needed police and court resources, while your community receives no revenue through licensing and taxation,” reads a brochure from Mark Conlin, who will be speaking to Kelowna city council on behalf of the company Starbuds during a public hearing for a pot bylaw that restricts retail sales of pot in Kelowna.

“The time for change is now and it’s in your hands.”

Conlin’s brochure recommends that the city enact local licensing and regulations now and offers Starbud’s help to regulate medical cannabis safely and responsibly, “just as (they) have done in other communities.”

Currently the sale of marijuana is illegal in Canada.

Proposed amendments to a Kelowna zoning bylaw that covers the operation of retail stores reinforces that law for the time being at least.

Once the federal government legalizes marijuana, however, municipalities are expected to have the power to regulate pot shops, controlling where pot shops can go and how long they can operate. Operators would likely go through rezoning processes which would permit neighbours to comment.

Conlin’s brochure indicates the federal task force charged with providing recommendations on the path to legalization, has said stand-alone storefront businesses provide the best avenue toward the effective regulation and control of cannabis in our communities.

“This same task force has recommended that provincial and municipal governments have jurisdiction in the enforcement of those regulations in their own communities,” it reads. “Which means you are empowered to help people in your community who are being discriminated against right now.”

Waiting, it reads, is not only unconstitutional, it also means the potential loss of licensing fees and employment opportunities for the community.

The amendment would specifically prohibit the sale of marijuana in retail outlets.

The public can offer their views on the proposed amendment at a meeting set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Kelowna City Hall.

Currently, there are several marijuana dispensaries in operation in Kelowna.

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