As the clock towards the legalization of recreational marijuana ticks down, local governments including Saanich heard more about the rules governing the distribution and use of recreational marijuana.
But several questions remain, as Saanich continues to keep its cards close to its vest. While Saanich has acknowledged the announcements by B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth concerning the sale and use of recreational marijuana, it has not yet announced whether it will even allow the sale of the substance once it becomes legal.
Saanich – unlike Victoria – has shown zero tolerance towards so-called pot shops that have already operated in Victoria for some time in suggesting Saanich might take a less lenient approach than its neighbouring municipality.
Saanich spokesperson Megan Catalano said the municipality’s planning and building, bylaw, licensing and legal services departments are currently finalizing a report with recommendations for council regarding marijuana retail in Saanich. “More information will be available when the report is presented to [council],” she said.
Assuming Saanich will allow the retail of recreational marijuana — an assumption that still awaits confirmation — proposed provincial legislation will give the municipality the authority to cap the number of stores.
“Local governments will have the authority to make local decisions based on the needs of their communities,” reads a provincial report titled B.C. Cannabis Private Retail Licensing Guide. “This means that some local governments may choose not to allow retail cannabis stores, while others may choose to cap the number of stores that are permitted to operate within their jurisdiction.”
It is not clear yet whether Saanich will make any use of these powers.
Municipalities may also impose additional requirements.
While the province will not impose minimum distances between recreational pot retailers and other facilities like other cannabis stores, schools, and day-cares among other places, Saanich may set such limits.
Municipalities may also limit retail hours. Stores can operate between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. unless regulated otherwise under proposed legislation.
Overall, retailers must go through a public input process before receiving local government support.
“The local government must ask residents in the vicinity of the proposed retail location to comment on how the store would impact the community,” the provincial report reads.
The provincial government announced earlier this year that will set up a string of government-run shops, but also allow individuals and business to apply for private retail licenses. British Columbians will have to be 19 years old to buy marijuana and they will generally not be able buy pot and alcohol in the same location, unless they live in yet-to-be-determined rural areas.
Several so-called pot shops actually exist near the border between Victoria and Saanich, yet Saanich staff have made it a point not to weigh on them.
Victoria last December denied a proposed pot shop close to Saanich’s border, and Saanich residents living within 100 metres of the proposed site would have received public hearing notices under Victoria’s procedures. But since the application did not move forward, Saanich officially declined to comment on Victoria’s decision.