Nanaimo city council considers municipal bylaws to regulate pot shops

NANAIMO – Medical marijuana dispensaries are not going away, says Nanaimo Coun. Bill Bestwick.

Medical marijuana dispensaries are not going away, says Nanaimo city councillor Bill Bestwick, who says the city may need to come up with municipal bylaws.

Pot shops, selling bud to brownies, continue to crop up in the Harbour City even after police cracked down on dispensaries in December.

City council called on staff to report on licensing regulation options for dispensaries in December, but a report has not yet landed before council. There has also been no further enforcement by the Nanaimo RCMP.

Bestwick called what to do with medical marijuana dispensaries complex, because it affects people on a day-to-day basis on a local level but is under federal jurisdiction. But neither does he see it going away and said the city needs to come up with municipal bylaws that are enforceable and that operators are going to need to be compliant.

He said council is hearing from delegations there’s concerns with how dispensaries are promoting and marketing their products, and to keep control of dispensaries there needs to be some form of regulation at the local level.

Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay said he shares the view with there being a proliferation of the dispensaries and a “blatant disregard for regulation” within the city. He said he’s going to spend the next few days reviewing what’s been done in Vancouver and Victoria.

“Like Vancouver, I think we may need to look very carefully at some regulation that mirrors, for example, the requirements with respect to liquor stores,” he said. “You can’t have a liquor store within a certain proximity of another one both by provincial and city standards.

“If we’re going to get into the licensing of these shops, we need to look at similar regulations.”

Kevin Marcus is a bud tender at West Side Alternatives, who explained there are three types of stores that have opened – those that have opened because of the business opportunity, to take advantage of a quick cash grab while still in a gray area and ones looking to set a trend for how the stores should be run.

He doesn’t see all the dispensaries staying when regulation comes, adding that there are way too many in Nanaimo but hopes some do, and he does want to see regulation.

“It’s the best way to keep everything on the level,” he said. “If you want to do this here, this is what you have to do.”