NANAIMO — The often hazy picture of what legalized marijuana in Nanaimo will look like is now more clear after details of a cannabis task force were confirmed.
Coun. Jim Kipp was selected as chair of the task force at Monday's City Council meeting. It was unanimously approved the task force have members from Island Health, the RCMP, three existing community committees and two representatives from the cannabis industry. The task force will work on amending bylaws and recommendations already in place to make for an easier transition when marijuana is legalized, regarding City planning and zoning.
Whether the industry representatives would be from legitimate business or still illegal dispensaries became the main point of discussion.
“I don't think it's wise for us to pretend we don't have 20 retail stores out there selling product,” coun. Diane Brennan said. “I think we'll miss the boat if we don't bring them in on this.”
She said if illegal dispensaries in Nanaimo aren't involved, the City will end up making rules for a business they haven't consulted once marijuana is legalized in July.
Coun. Sheryl Armstrong pushed back on the idea. “Right now, all these storefronts that are operating aren't considered dispensaries, they're illegal and I would have a concern bringing illegal people onto a committee.”
City Council approved having two industry representatives, but didn't go as far as saying one would be from a dispensary.
Director of community development Dale Lindsay said it's likely one of the representatives will be from federally licensed, Nanaimo-based Tilray, who've indicated they're interested in helping craft local policy.
“They've had a couple of years now working under a federally-regulated system and we believe they've also had some conversations with the province about what potentially could be coming forward,” he said.
Even though all levels of government are making strides toward concrete rules and regulations, Lindsay said there's still a lot of unanswered questions.
“The province has started to hint that both private and public storefronts will play a role, but we don't have all the details. So there's lots of questions that remain...including the numbers and what is the ratio (of stores) and how many for each municipality.”
He said current conversations make it appear weed will be sold in B.C. much like alcohol.
The City has held off on drafting any regulations related to marijuana sales in Nanaimo, often saying it would be a waste of time to draft a framework before federal and provincial laws are clear. The issue has spawned community concerns, mainly over the location of dispensaries.
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