City goes ahead with pot dispensary ban

Dispensaries: Council will push feds to clarify marijuana status

City council has ruled that medical marijuana dispensaries are not legally permitted in Campbell River but said it would “push” the federal government to make a decision on marijuana legislation.

Council, at its Tuesday night meeting, adopted a bylaw amendment prohibiting all marijuana operations – including dispensaries – unless they are legally permitted through Health Canada.

The bylaw has been at the council table since April, shortly after two dispensaries – WeeMedical and Trees Dispensary – took up operations in Campbell River.

Trees has since shut down following movement by council to make dispensaries illegal in the city.

Mayor Andy Adams said council, in making its decision, did take into account the emotional testimony from those with medical issues who, at last month’s public hearing, shared how cannabis has changed their lives.

“Our response to them is that we will continue to push the federal government to provide some urgency in what they have said they are going to do so that the local governments can have some clarity in moving forward with regulations and legislations,” Adams said.

The federal government has announced it will be handing down legislation concerning legalization next spring and the government has been given a deadline of August, 2016 to come up with legislation to address medical marijuana access challenges.

In the meantime, medical marijuana dispensaries have opened up in communities across Canada in anticipation of changing legislation despite the retail sale of cannabis currently being illegal in Canada.

Kevin Brooks, the city’s development services supervisor, said because that extends to all oils and edibles derived from cannabis, it is illegal for dispensaries to be distributing such products unless they have approval from Health Canada.

Brooks said that means the city can’t legally accommodate medical marijuana dispensaries until the law changes.

Council, at its May 9 meeting, had discussed issuing medical marijuana dispensaries a temporary use permit – a tool the city uses to allow uses that are not permitted under the zoning of the property being utilized.

At Monday’s meeting, however, Brooks recommended council not go down that road.

“Permitting any use that is federally criminal is not legally valid and beyond the authority of a municipal government,” Brooks said.

He clarified, though, that once the use of marijuana is legalized, or if an operator has a permit from Health Canada, council could consider a temporary use permit in those circumstances.

Council, in the end, with Coun. Larry Samson opposed, agreed with city staff and voted to deny issuing the temporary licence permits, at least until such time that the federal government implements legislation addressing medical marijuana access which is expected to come down in August.

“It’s just three months,” Coun. Charlie Cornfield said.

“I think it’s better we just chug along as we’ve been doing and we take it as the senior government decides on the legislation. It’s a short time period.”