With general direction provided by the province, the City of Terrace has begun discussions on how to update city bylaws and policies to allow the set up of cannabis retail stores in the downtown area.
According to the B.C. Cannabis Private Retail Licensing Guide, local governments can decide whether or not they will allow cannabis retail stores to operate within their jurisdiction, mainly through bylaw and policy amendments.
“We’ve been slowly over the last couple of months taking a look at what the Liberal Government’s bill legalizing the recreational use of cannabis is going to mean locally,” said Tara Irwin, city planner, during a committee of the whole meeting on June 12.
Some cities across B.C., including Delta, White Rock, Richmond and most recently Kitimat, have already decided to enact a ban on cannabis dispensaries until they receive more direction from the province. The City of Terrace council, however, is considering a staff recommendation to allow the retail sale of recreational marijuana without the interim measure to ban it, as federal legalization is on the horizon and provincial guidelines are already in hand.
Staff recommended that amendments be made to four bylaws and two policies to set the stage for marijuana retail sale. Regarding the business license bylaw, staff proposed creating a new ‘Storefront Cannabis Retail Use’ category with a $500 licensing fee for retail stores. Similar to liquor licensing applications made through Liquor Regulation and Licensing (LCLB), this process will require local public consultation before the province can issue a license.
The zoning bylaw is where municipalities will have full power to determine where and how marijuana retail stores will operate within their jurisdiction.
“That’s where, in terms of land-use, where the rubber would hit the road,” said Irwin.
Staff recommended that stores selling cannabis and related products be allowed in select downtown commercial zones, outside a 300-metre buffer from their storefront and school properties. They also recommended a distance of 100-metres between marijuana-related businesses.
“That would prevent having two storefront cannabis retail uses in the same block,” said city planner David Block.
With the 100-metre storefront buffer, Coun. James Cordeiro voiced his concerns about limiting healthy competition between potential retail marijuana businesses in Terrace. According to staff, the city has already received between six and nine inquiries about setting up cannabis retail storefront locations.
“I’m fine with all your recommendations except for that, there is actually a lot of business rationale why you locate close to your competitor,” Cordeiro said.
Block said part of the debate process was to see if there should be a buffer at all between stores along the same block.
“That’s part of the debate discussion,” he said. “Should we allow stores to set up anywhere in those zones? Side by side? Five in a row? Do we care, is that a concern? Do we then want to cap six stores at the maximum, or do we want to let the market cap?”
Following direction from the province, smoking cannabis will also be banned in all public parks, beaches, and playgrounds. In a related move, the city also recommended adding a section to the ticket and utilization bylaw that allows enforcement officers to fine people for smoking cannabis in prohibited spaces.
Edibles are also not permitted for sale as part of the Cannabis Act, but a regulatory strategy will be revisited in 12 months. Retailers selling recreational marijuana are restricted to only dried cannabis and cannabis oil. Selling liquor or tobacco products out of the same space will be prohibited.
Absent from provincial regulations are details governing the growth and production of cannabis. Currently, only medical marijuana is allowed on land in the Agricultural Land Reserve.
“We don’t have clear direction on who can grow and where they can grow and produce their retail product, so that’s one reason why we haven’t looked at what zones we should maybe allow retail or recreational marijuana production in, because there are no parameters for us to make that determination,” said Block.
There will be another discussion towards the beginning of July where draft bylaws will go for first reading, where city officials would then begin collecting feedback from the public for their input on the changes.
The city is expecting that the retail sale of cannabis will be available by August or September, once the province gets two to three months after the bill is passed to make final preparations.