The regional district is preparing its strategy for regulating legalized cannabis. (Lakes District News file photo)

RDBN planning pot bylaws

Aspiring pot-store owners may face hurdles

If somebody offers to open up a cannabis shop, local governments can just say no. That was one of the messages delivered by planning director Jason Llewellyn on April 5, during a Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN) committee of the whole meeting.

Cannabis will be sold in government-run shops operated by the Liquor Distribution Branch and private stores licensed by the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, according to B.C.’s recently announced regulations.

But aspiring pot-store owners may have significant hurdles to jump through at the municipal or regional level, since those governments will be in charge of where those shops can go. .

“The province is saying very strongly that municipalities and regional districts will have a veto — you can say no to any location,” Llewellyn said, as he presented a report on cannabis legalization to the committee. “Local governments will have that control.”

Local governments will have to carry out a public consultation as part of the approval process, but the details of how those consultations work won’t be known until later, Llewellyn said.

Most lawyers are telling local governments to prohibit all cannabis retailing until they have more information about the legal implications of the changes, he said.

“Once the provincial model is laid out and issues are addressed, then consider opening up your bylaws,” Llewellyn said.

Recreational production

As for growers, the RDBN already allows for medical pot-growing facilities in certain areas, following amendments to zoning bylaws in 2014. Regional district staff are considering similar rules for recreational cannabis production, according to the report.

The RDBN currently allows medical cannabis growing in agricultural areas, sparsely populated “rural resource” zones and special industrial areas.

Planning staff haven’t yet made their recommendations about recreational pot growing to the RDBN directors, but they’re leaning towards treating it the same as medical marijuana, according to the report.

Public use

The province is expected to develop legislation that would allow cannabis use in areas where people can already smoke tobacco or use vapes.

However, using cannabis won’t be allowed in playgrounds and other places frequented by kids or in vehicles, the report states.

The planning report came amid hurried efforts by local governments across the country to prepare for the legalization of cannabis. Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, may come into effect as early as August.

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