With the federal government set to legalize marijuana next summer, one Merritt city councillor says the provincial government needs to lead the way on regulations before municipalities can act.

Coun. Dave Baker wants to see a specific set of regulations come out regarding how marijuana will be sold so that municipalities have a baseline to work from when establishing their bylaws.

Merritt city councillor Dave Baker. (herald file photo)

The proposed Cannabis Act, should it be approved by Parliament next July, gives Ottawa authority over licensing, production, testing and quality control, while provinces are responsible for distribution and retail sales.

Baker attended a meeting at the Union of BC Municipalities Conference in Vancouver last month regarding the upcoming legalization.

“The province has not come out with a set of rules yet, so they want cities to start thinking about where they want the dispensaries,” said Baker, adding that the government is asking municipalities to start thinking about where marijuana can be legally sold in their towns.

“They talked about [the possibility of] liquor stores,” said Baker. “A lot of people from my looks around the room did not care for that idea.”

Last November, Merritt city council planned to hold a local workshop in 2017 that would address municipal rules such as what zones potential cannabis retail outlets will be allowed to set up shop in, how far away from schools and how far apart from each other these stores will need to be.

To date that meeting hasn’t happened.

“We’re going to,” said Baker. “I don’t believe a date has been set, but I would say we’re going to be doing that within the next month and a half. It’s a hot topic that we got to get on to.”

City of Merritt chief administrative officer Shawn Boven has told the Herald city council could choose to prohibit the sale of marijuana in the city, but Baker said he doesn’t think that’s the route council will go.

“It’d be too much pressure,” Baker said.

After talks with other provinces and the federal government, B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said he is leaning towards a combination of provincial control and incorporating some of the locally licensed dispensaries that have popped up in B.C. communities.

Ottawa has set a minimum age of 18 for buying marijuana, but B.C. could choose 19 as it has for liquor sales, or a higher limit.

How to regulate marijuana smoking is also a discussion that needs to be had, Baker told the Herald.

“Can you smoke in apartment buildings? Can you smoke walking down the street, or in parks?,” said Baker, adding that the majority of people he’s consulted suggest regulating it the same as smoking tobacco.

Provinces and territories will have the ability to increase the minimum legal age, lower the personal possession limit, create additional rules for growing cannabis at home — such as the number of plants per residence — and restrict where it can be consumed, such as in public or in vehicles.

 

Committee established to consider municipal input on legalized marijuana

The B.C. government is in the process of consulting with local governments when it comes to the legalization of marijuana.

A joint provincial-local government committee that will consider policies related to cannabis legalization and regulation in B.C. is scheduled to hold its first meeting Friday (Oct. 20).

The Joint Provincial-Local Government Committee on Cannabis Regulation (JCCR) will provide a forum for communication and consultation so that the province considers local government input during the development of the regulatory framework for legalized non-medical cannabis, stated a press release from Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

“It goes without saying that local government will be on the frontline and instrumental in the delivery of new policies and laws associated with the legalization of non-medical cannabis in British Columbia,” Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said in the release.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities has appointed 12 representatives to the JCCR drawn from elected officials, staff specializing in planning, building inspection, bylaw enforcement or public safety and senior staff.

No representatives from Merritt have been named to the committee.

The joint committee will include members of the B.C. Government Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Secretariat and the following UBCM members:

Wendy Booth, director, Regional District of East Kootenay

Kerry Jang, councillor, City of Vancouver

Maya Tait, mayor, District of Sooke

Brian Frenkel, councillor, District of Vanderhoof

Chris Coates, clerk, City of Victoria

Kevin Cormack, chief administrative officer, City of Nelson

Kathryn Holm, chief licence inspector, City of Vancouver

Dave Jones, business license inspector, City of Kamloops

Peter Monteith, chief administrative officer, City of Chilliwack

Terry Waterhouse, director of public safety, City of Surrey

Ian Wells, general manager, planning and development, City of Prince George

Gary MacIsaac, executive director, Union of B.C. Municipalities

 

— with files from Tom Fletcher, Black Press