Marijuana legalization is coming in October, and Nanaimo residents will have a chance before then to voice concerns and give opinions related to cannabis zoning.
Nanaimo city council gave two readings to the proposed amendment bylaw at its Aug. 13 council meeting, and a public hearing will be held prior to third reading and adoption.
The city cannabis task force and staff have recommended criteria around zoning for cannabis retail stores – provincially licensed stores where marijuana is sold to people, but not consumed on site. The criteria call for a distance of 300 metres between the front doors of each store and at least 150 metres between the store and a school or licensed daycare. Dale Lindsay, city director of community development, stated at the meeting, that Nanaimo school district is suggesting a distance of 300 metres.
During discussion, Coun. Bill Bestwick expressed concerns about distancing between retail outlets.
“I only bring this up because with our liquor retail outlets, we’ve had issues in the past about awarding, within the 300 metres, because it can be defined with some ambiguity whether it’s ‘as the crow flies,’ or how many steps you take, and it becomes problematic with whoever has the store first … and that’s where the complaints come from, is there within the 300 metres and then we start stepping it off in every angle you possibly can to make it work or not work,” Bestwick said. “How might this be different from our experiences of our liquor retail stores?”
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Lindsay said the city has learned from the liquor store situations and said if it’s in a mall, it’s from the front door of the store and it is the city’s intention to provide certainty around that.
Coun. Sheryl Armstrong wondered if the 150 and 300 metre numbers were “arbitrary” or if it came through research.
“The 150 metres is traditionally one city block and that’s where that measurement comes from. Three-hundred metres of course, two city blocks,” said Lindsay. “Generally, those are numbers that we’ve used for other setbacks. The 150 is one that is consistent with our liquor licence setback through that one-block radius around a store. Also, the 300 metres is consistent in our bylaw where we have separation between pawnshops in our zoning bylaw, so again it’s trying to be consistent.”
The proposed legislation also allows for “micro cannabis production and processing” to operate within I1 (highway industrial) and I2 (light industrial) zoning, with micro cannabis production and processing defined as a facilities contained entirely within a building where the production and growing of cannabis products is limited to no more than 200 [square metres] of gross floor area per lot.”
After hearing from delegations, councillors debated criteria related to licence approval and staff said that was something council could change at any time.
Coun. Bill Yoachim said more consultation is needed.
“Public hearings, we do go straight to voting on it, as a rule for the last three and a half years and there’s been really no space to wordsmith and make amendments,” he said. “This is too important of a subject not to have a little bit of discussion on it and we have to get it right.”
Coun. Ian Thorpe supported second reading and said the city needed to move on with it, noting the cannabis task force’s consultation and work on the file.
“I’m not comfortable with the criteria at this point, which I recognize is something separate,” said Thorpe. I’m also not comfortable making changes or amendments to criteria tonight, on the fly … I’m sure there will be good points made at a future public hearing, I would like to certainly wait and deal with those amendments at a future time.”
The bylaw passed second reading with councillors Jerry Hong, Bestwick and Gord Fuller opposed.
The public hearing will take place at Shaw Auditorium on Sept. 6 at 7 p.m.