The Strathcona Regional District board sent the issue around licensing for marijuana back to the committee level to identify questions around a potential policy.
The board decided to refer it to its Electoral Area Services Committee (EASC), so the matter came up at the EASC meeting on Nov. 7. The committee is made up of the four electoral area directors to discuss matters affecting the unincorporated areas within the regional district. These can then brought before the SRD board as a whole.
Area D Director Brenda Leigh has said she considers the matter to be similar to licensing for liquor sales and not a pressing issue, especially as actual licensing happens at the level of senior government, with local governments only being asked for a position on licence applications.
“I’m pretty comfortable with the idea that the provincial government is going to be sending us referrals like they do on liquor licence applications for store-front cannabis sales,” she said. “We should just wait and see how the province rolls out their regulations. I don’t think many things are going to change in the cannabis world. I mean people have been using cannabis for the last 50 years, legally or not, and those same people are still going to be using it, probably from the same source.”
Area C Director Jim Abram, who chaired the meeting, interjected that marijuana had more likely been used for the last 5,000 years.
Some SRD members have pointed that a letter from the province has suggested that if local government does not take a position on a particular application, any applications in process will be considered invalid.
This discussion had centred around the issue of non-medicinal marijuana sales. However, that leaves the question around production – specifically concerning zoning and land-use.
Area B Director Noba Anderson had brought up the matter, saying her electoral area is in the midst of an overhaul of its zoning bylaw in order to take into account issues such as legalized recreational cannabis. While sales are one issue, as Anderson put it, a number of people of Cortes Island have questions about growing marijuana.
It also had implications for other electoral areas, according to Anderson.
“The issue is an important one, I guess, for the three areas that have zoning bylaws,” she said.
On Cortes, she said the matter had been discussed but they had not been able to identify a resolution for it. She added that in her experience if a zoning bylaw does not clearly permit an activity, then the activity is not allowed on the land.
Leigh responded it should be up to each electoral area to deal with its own zoning.
“Certainly on the news I’ve been hearing many local governments across Canada grappling with updating their bylaws,” Anderson responded. “It’s unclear to me at this time in all of our rural areas, whether the production and sale of cannabis is permitted everywhere or not permitted anywhere because I expect all of our bylaws are silent to it.”
Anderson wants SRD staff to put together a report on best practices over the issue of how communities are handling the legalization of marijuana. She added that ideally the matter would not be handled as policy but rather by including provisions in the electoral areas’ zoning bylaws.