Canada: Regional District Of Nanaimo Forming Policy On Retail Shops For Non-Medical Cannabis

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The Regional District of Nanaimo is establishing a policy for non-medical cannabis retail store license applications.

When the federal government legalizes the recreational use of marijuana this summer, the regional district and other jurisdictions will be facing challenges in dealing with applications for legal sale of recreational marijuana.

When it becomes legal, the federal government will take sole responsibility on regulating the production of non-medical marijuana. In British Columbia, the wholesale distribution of recreational marijuana will be be processed only through the Liquor Distribution Board.

The provincial government has advised that it will permit local governments to decide whether to allow retail stores to sell non-medical marijuana in their communities. An applicant is required to seek the support of local governments before the province can issue a retail license.

The RDN wants to deal with this issue sooner and has created a draft policy regarding retail store applications for the board’s approval. It was presented to the Electoral Area Services Committee for review on Tuesday night (May 8).

Manager of current planning, Jeremy Holm, explained to the committee that the draft policy is aimed at establishing a framework in the RDN for reviewing applications. It will help create an efficient and effective process once non-medical cannabis is legalized in Canada.

It will guide applicants on what they need to prepare including the impact evaluation criteria that will help the RDN board in establishing a resolution as part of the province’s licensing process.

It will include separation from sensitive uses. Staff recommended that a minimum 300-metre setback between the retail store and other sensitive uses such as schools, playgrounds, community centers and daycares. Holm said the purpose is to mitigate inappropriate exposure of minors to cannabis, minimize public impact and prevent undesirable concentrations of NMC retail stores.

Staff also pointed out the proposed policy is consistent with the RDN Liquor License Applications policy that it uses to review applications received from the province.

At present, similar to alcohol, the selling of cannabis would fall under general retail use within “Regional District of Nanaimo Land use and Subdivision Bylaw No. 500, 1987” and “Regional District of Nanaimo Electoral Area ‘F’ Zoning and Subdivision Bylaw No. 1285, 2002”, and would be permitted in any zone that allows that use.

In reviewing all applications, draft Policy B1.24 requires that all NMC retail stores be located in a zone where retail store is a permitted principal use.

The committee, however, decided to refer the draft policy back to staff as directors raised a number of issues that the RDN should dwell on.

Electoral Area H Director Bill Veenhof feels the 300-meter setback proposal, which was based on regulations that exist in other local governments within B.C. and in the United States, will work in urban centers but would be difficult to apply in rural communities such as Bowser and Qualicum Bay.

He also has problems with the notification distance that would require the RDN to hand written notice to owners and tenants in occupation of any part of a parcel within a distance of 200 meters.

He said the distance should be similar to the 300-meter separation distance. Veenhof made a motion that the notification distance should be 300 meters.

Although it passed, Electoral Area A Director Alec McPherson was against making motions without fully discussing the report. Electoral Area F Director Julian Fell indicated that upon reading the provincial guidelines, he said the RDN should focus more on the areas that are under their jurisdiction. He recommended referring the draft policy back to staff and to further discuss the issue.

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