Canada: Dawson Creek Prepares For Marijuana Legalization

Photo Credit: Reuters

Dawson Creek city council is ahead of the puff, puff, pass when it comes to expected legalization of cannabis.

Recent amendments to city zoning bylaws means that cannabis is a legal definition within the City of Dawson Creek’s zoning bylaw.

It states, “no land or building can be used for the production, distribution or sale of cannabis, except the production of cannabis as a farm use which is allowed on lands within the Agricultural Land Reserve.”

Mayor Dale Bumstead says the bylaw gives the city ability and control over where and how cannabis retail stores can set up once legalization occurs.

You can’t just roll up a joint and start puffing away

“We passed a bylaw now to say that when the federal legislation makes it legal for the sale of cannabis and marijuana, that it can’t just pop up anywhere,” he explains.

“That’s all we’ve done so far, put in a bylaw that once the legislation is approved that if somebody wants to set up a retail shop for the sale of cannabis marijuana, that we can fit that within the zoning of our community and approve where that’s going to happen,” says Bumstead.

Without proper zoning bylaws in place beforehand, Bumstead says, “you could put up a retail location anywhere in the community, and then once it’s legal, it would be grandfathered because our zoning bylaws don’t speak to it.”

Nothing but an open process in Dawson Creek.

The City of Dawson Creek has been nothing but transparent and ready for business in the application, zoning, and building of the Compass Cannabis Clinic in the Dawson Creek Mall, says lead with the business, Matthew Rivard. He adds March 24 is the expected opening date for the Compass Cannabis DC location.

Rivard notes a handful of municipalities are looking for advice when it comes to crafting cannabis related bylaws.

“Cities like Burnaby and Calgary, larger communities are turning to Compass for direction,” says Rivard.

“Dawson Creek has been nothing but open.”

David Martyn, president of Compass Cannabis, says Alberta has been much more aggressive when it comes to provincial legislation compared to British Columbia.

“In BC, cannabis is a huge part of the economy, and municipalities and cities are making their decisions. Perhaps provincial standards are not laid out as much as they could be from a municipal POV.”

Dawson Creek Chamber of Commerce executive director Kathleen Connolly says she sees action by the city as “proactive.”

In her meeting with Minister of Labour Harry Bains, she raised the concern of marijuana use and the effect in the workplace.

“I think the real concern with employers is [. . .] where these facilities can be set up, and then just in knowing how to protect their staff,” she explains.

Procedures and practices around marijuana in the workplace — both recreational and medicinal — are amongst local business concerns.

“There is a lot of concern, not so much in the using part, but in how do you manage your place of business,” Connolly says.

Canadian Lawyer Magazine says employers will have the right to prohibit the use of marijuana during work hours, and to further prohibit attendance at work while impaired. Violation of these prohibitions can be made the subject of progressive discipline.

“In appropriate cases, such violations could result in termination of employment for just cause.”

Unlike alcohol, marijuana can be detected in the bloodstream days or even weeks after ingestion, but levels of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) do not correspond with levels of impairment.

“This means that there is currently no medical test that accurately or reliably indicates the level of a person’s impairment due to marijuana use.”

Martyn said having a usage policy in place is the answer.

“It is  the hardest question to answer, however that is also where CBDs can be prescribed and not simply marijuana.”

One industry insider says the target market may not be who people think.

“It is really soccer moms. Those with disposable income who are making the financial and purchasing decisions for their families.”

This summer might be jumping the gun.

“To think they’re going to roll this out in July is extremely unlikely, because I don’t think anybody really knows where to start with it,” says Connolly.

Rivard agrees.

“July is not something that will happen overnight, I would imagine September and further into the fall is more realistic.”

The DC Compass Cannabis location is currently not a retail marijuana shop.

“We are opening to build education and knowledge, and partnerships in the Dawson Creek community,” says Rivard.

Martyn says the stigma of “doing weed” is going away.

“At the end of the day, it is a medicine. Cities see the reality of new economic development dollars in their communities. Businesses are adding marijuana to medical plans. This isn’t a new business replacing an old one, it is new cash and economic drive,” he says.

Councillors in Hudson’s Hope are looking to implement bylaw and zoning changes to regulate the sale, production, and consumption of marijuana in the municipality.

Councillors stressed that locking down bylaws in advance of legalization is their best option to ensure that the public space is reasonably protected. They’ll be reaching out to the District of Taylor for advice on starting the legal process, which has already banned the cultivation, distribution, and sale of the product in the municipality.

In early February, Taylor councillors adopted a bylaw that bans the the selling, dispensing, and cultivation of marijuana in the municipality.