The Municipality of North Cowichan is considering prohibiting the retail sale of marijuana within its boundaries.
That means that any application to set up a pot shop in North Cowichan would require a site-specific zoning amendment that would have to come before council to be considered.
In anticipation of the upcoming legalization of pot, expected this summer, North Cowichan’s council gave first and second reading at its meeting on Jan. 17 to the zoning bylaw amendment.
This proposed zoning amendment will now proceed to a public hearing, and the time and place of the hearing will be announced.
A staff report indicated that under the municipality’s current zoning, once marijuana becomes legal, retailers would be able to apply to set up pot shops under North Cowichan’s very general “retail store” zoning, which has few constraints, including rules on where they can be established.
“There are different views on whether cannabis dispensaries should be permitted and, if they are permitted, where they should or should not be located within our communities,” said Kyle Young, North Cowichan’s assistant manager of planning and subdivision, in the report.
“In order for the municipality to have the greatest level of control over where these types of operations can or cannot occur, cannabis sales must be defined and regulated in the zoning bylaw.”
Scott Mack, director of development services, told council that the zoning amendment should be viewed as a “cautious initial move” by the municipality to protect its interests as the federal government has yet to reveal the regulatory processes it wants in place for new marijuana stores once pot has been legalized.
“When we see that, we can still augment the regulations to fit our needs,” Mack said.
As for existing pot stores operating in the municipality, Mack said they have no business licences or authorization from North Cowichan to operate.
“Even when marijuana is legalized and the new regulations are in effect, these existing shops will still be illegal under our zoning,” he said.
Coun. Tom Walker said he has no sympathy for the illegal pot shops currently operating in North Cowichan.
“The public will have the opportunity to speak to these issues at the upcoming public hearing,” he said.
A press release from the municipality said the zoning bylaw amendment would not affect any existing, federally-licensed cannabis production facilities currently operating under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation within North Cowichan.