North Cowichan looks to change its criteria around where pot shops can be located in the municipality to take out distances from each other and children-related locations. (File photo)

North Cowichan considers changes to pot shop criteria

Rules around distance from schools, other cannabis shops, proving problematic

North Cowichan is considering dropping the distance requirements for applications for retail marijuana outlets in the municipality.

At a meeting of the committee of the whole on July 8, it was recommended to council that the criteria council established in January that pot shops must be located at least 300 metres from each other and a minimum of 600 metres from schools, playgrounds and places where children and youth gather be dropped.

The requirements that cannabis stores in North Cowichan must be located on a major road and be located on land already zoned for commercial uses would stay in place.

Mayor Al Siebring said the criteria around distances proved to be more difficult to deal with than originally anticipated once council began accepting applications earlier this year.

He said one of the first applications considered, from Leaf Compassion in Chemainus, was a “real sticking point” for council when the criteria around distances was applied.

North Cowichan turned down Leaf Compassion’s application in May mainly due to it being too close to schools and playgrounds, as stipulated by the criteria.

“But when you consider Chemainus, there’s almost no place in the community for a marijuana retail shop to set up if we follow the rules around distance we currently have in the criteria,” Siebring said.

“If the recommendation passes council, we will consider each application for retail marijuana shops on a case-by-case basis with no criteria for distances,” he said.

Siebring said the distance requirements North Cowichan had established as part of the criteria for setting up pot shops came at the suggestion of Island Health.

“We’re finding it frustrating that some parts of the provincial government want us to restrict the shops, while others are saying to open them up,” he said. It’s expected council will consider the recommendation at its next meeting on July 17.

In related news, North Cowichan also wants to ensure that the two applicants to establish retail marijuana outlets in Cowichan Commons are treated fairly and equally.

The committee of the whole recommended at the July 8 meeting that plans for a public hearing for the rezoning application from the BC Liquor Distribution Branch for a pot shop in the shopping centre be postponed.

The LDB has already received two readings on its application and the next step in the process is for the municipality to hold a public hearing.

It council agrees, plans for the public hearing would wait until council determines if it will give the first reading to an updated application from Costa Canna, a partnership headed by Cowichan Tribes that also wants to set up a pot shop at Cowichan Commons, at its next meeting on July 17.

It first reading is given, and after Costa Canna holds its public information meeting, council would then consider holding a public hearing on both applications at the same time.

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