Nanaimo's cannabis task force starts grappling with marijuana legalization

By Spencer Sterritt
April 19, 2018 - 7:56pm Updated: April 20, 2018 - 7:11am

Members of the city's cannabis task force, including members from other City committees, got down to work on Thursday, April 19.Spencer Sterritt/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — The heavy and often hazy issue of marijuana legalization is now being tackled at the local level.

The City's cannabis task force met for the first time on Thursday, April 19. Their goal is to review provincial and federal legislation, pinpoint issues to be handled at the local level, talk to the community and make recommendations to City Council.

Director of community development Dale Lindsay said even though they're dealing with an unclear future, the City does have years of similar experience licensing and zoning liquor stores.

“What the province is contemplating for cannabis will be very similar to how they model and distribute liquor in the province.”

Even then, there's still many unknowns the task force will grapple with.

Liquor stores in the province have to be 1 km. away from each other according to provincial rules, but it's unclear if the same regulation will be in effect for dispensaries.

Phillipe Lucas, vice-president of patient research and access at Tilray, said it will likely be their job to fill in any legal gaps.

“I think 90 per cent of the regulations and rules we're looking at will need a slight change of language or application, because they're already going to be covered through liquor, agriculture or tobacco regulation. I think the goal of this committee is going to be 'What's not covered by that in any way?' and find out how good of a fit it can be.”

Despite the unknowns and the enormity of the challenge, this is the first time the City of Nanaimo is directly dealing with the issue.

In fact, the City actively didn't try to tackle the issue for many years.

“I'm pleased we laid back and watched,” Nanaimo mayor Bill McKay previously told NanaimoNewsNOW. “I think we just wait for the come up with their recommendations and we'll probably just run with those.”

On Thursday, task force chair and councillor Jim Kipp advocated for meetings a few weeks apart so they weren't “behind the gun” on the topic.

The next cannabis task force meeting is May 10, where they'll review various options proposed.

The federal government has indicated marijuana will be legalized in late summer or early fall.


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