Nanaimo city council defeated a motion that would have prohibited marijuana dispensaries near schools. (BLACK PRESS file)

City council defeats motion to keep dispensaries away from schools

Motion failed on a tie vote at Nanaimo city council meeting Monday night

Nanaimo city council defeated a motion that would have prohibited marijuana dispensaries near schools.

Councillors were split 4-4 on the vote at Monday’s meeting, which meant the motion didn’t pass.

Coun. Bill Yoachim, who was absent, had put forward a two-part motion calling for the prohibition of dispensaries within 150 metres of schools, daycares, youth centres and playgrounds, and the creation of a task force on cannabis legalization and regulation.

Coun. Sheryl Armstrong said the motion seemed to endorse illegal action.

“Technically, any cannabis shop that’s operating right now is operating illegally,” she said. “So now, with this, we’re being asked to decide which ones should be allowed and which ones shouldn’t.”

Coun. Ian Thorpe had reservations about the first part of the motion, but liked the idea of the task force.

“The contents of [the first part] might be something that comes out of the task force and I’m sure a lot of other things would, as well,” he said. “So I think that’s where we need to start and we need to start as quickly as possible and hopefully that would operate in conjunction with the work that staff has already done on this issue.”

Mayor Bill McKay suggested it was premature to spend money and time on the matter now until more is known about federal and provincial approaches to legalization.

“B.C. is going to be the ones that are going to determine how it’s going to be distributed and we can follow in behind that,” he said.

Coun. Jerry Hong supported the motion, saying it was something proactive that council could do, and Coun. Diane Brennan said “it’s not moot if we work on this, because every piece of work that we do on this informs our choices later.”

Tracy Samra, city chief administrative officer, said the wording of the motion required a second look.

“The way it’s drafted is that council prohibit any cannabis dispensaries (within 150 metres of schools) so it’s actually making a direction that prohibition be enforced by staff,” Samra said. “You’re not saying ‘Council disagrees with having dispensaries located in A, B and C and wants staff to notify RCMP to take action.’ That’s not how that reads.”

There was some talk of re-wording the motion, but councillors decided not to do so in Yoachim’s absence.

The motion failed with McKay and councillors Armstrong, Thorpe and Bill Bestwick opposed.

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