Pot shop rules start to take shape. (Image credit: File photo)

Pot shops not welcome in Kelowna just yet

Council puts together some boundaries in advance of pot legalization

Don’t jump the gun and make any plans to open a pot shop in Kelowna.

That’s the message from city council, who voted Monday in support of the first reading of a bylaw that specifically excludes retail businesses from selling marijuana.

“Several businesses have sprung up in Kelowna’s commercial areas which appear to be operating or planning to operate in the future as marijuana dispensary type businesses,” said Ryan Smith, community planning manager in a report to council explaining the impetus to raise the issue.

“Staff are concerned that those taking the risk to invest in such a way prior to formal law and policy from the federal and provincial governments and regulation from local government may run into future conflict with land use regulations. At the present time, marijuana dispensaries wishing to use a storefront type model are not legal in Canada.”

While it may seem redundant to specifically highlight that retail stores in the city can’t sell recreational marijuana — something that’s remained illegal since 1923 — Mayor Colin Basran, pointed out failing to set out boundaries in light of federal government comments has been costly for the City of Vancouver.

The number of pot dispensaries there exploded last year after the Liberals promised to make good on an election promise to legalize the drug.

Vancouver tried to close them down. They started with handing out fines to those who wouldn’t shut their doors and eventually they filed court injunctions. Last month there were police raids to complement earlier efforts.

Some have argued it’s been a significant effort considering legalization looks like it will happen soon.

To that, Coun. Luke Stack pointed out that there is likely a great deal of time before it does. Even if the ball gets rolling this spring, as the federal government has indicated, any changes to the laws will require rigorous parliamentary and regulatory process.

“This is years away,” said Stack, adding that the city needs to have something in place that says, “hold off, everybody. Do nothing. Just wait.”

The only one to voice opposition to the bylaw was Coun. Charlie Hodge who said he felt that putting forward any restrictions in advance of legalization could be a problem. He noted that any future effort to restrict potshops could stigmatize users — particularly medical marijuana users.

The language highlighted in the bylaw will be change the definitions of businesses licences under the titles of health services-major, retail store – convenience, general, health products and service commercial to clearly prohibit the retail sale or dispensing of marijuana.

Staff are also proposing to update the definition of “Medical Marijuana Production Facility” in order to ensure that the definition remains up to date with the current Health Canada regulations.

In the future, once federal and provincial governments set out how they want legalization to play out, the bylaw will be revisited to set boundaries on how and where they want pot shops to run.

The issue will go to public hearing May 2.

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