Nanaimo mayor aims to limit proximity of marijuana dispensaries to minors

NANAIMO – Mayor Bill McKay gave notice he plans to introduce a motion to restrict dispensaries near youth.

Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay was hoping to introduce a motion to city council Monday that limits proximity of marijuana dispensaries to minors.

McKay planned to direct staff to draft a bylaw prohibiting marijuana dispensaries from being situated within 500 metres of any facility where people under 19 years old gather, such as parks, childcare centres, schools and recreation centres.

Melissa Burke, owner of Kidz Kompany Childcare Group, is concerned a dispensary could be opening next to her Terminal Avenue location. While there are legitimate reasons for medicinal marijuana, some are accessing dispensaries illegitimately, Burke said.

“Regardless if whether that’s going to be a dispensary or not, my problem is that, as a business owner and a child-care provider, because the City of Nanaimo does not currently have any bylaws in place for dispensaries, there’s nothing to say that they couldn’t open next door to me at any of my locations.

“The frustrating thing is, whether it’s legal or not, you can’t have dispensaries next to child care. You can’t have drugs next to kids,” said Burke.

The school district had similar concerns about a legal grow operation, next to Cedar Secondary School, that burned down in August. Steve Rae, school board chairman, and the board wrote Regional District of Nanaimo requesting it consider not renewing the operation’s business licence.

Rae said the board will support whatever city council decides and hopes it leads to more discourse between parents and children on drug use.

“This is an opportunity for families to have discussions with their kids, and for our staff to have discussions with the kids in the schools, about the rights and wrongs of drugs and alcohol and this is just another opportunity for us to have that discussion and we encourage them to have those discussions at home,” said Rae.

McKay said regulation is currently in the federal government’s court.

“I certainly hope that we as the City of Nanaimo can start putting some regulations in place sooner, rather than later. Having said that, there’s a real difference of opinion as to whether or not we should even go to the time and trouble to do that … because it’s all going to get overturned by superseding regulations from the federal government.

“Those guys can’t work fast enough for me,” said McKay.