Chilliwack is drafting a new zone for retail non-medical cannabis. (Black Press)

Ban on retail pot in Chilliwack until legalization comes into effect

City ready to draft a special zone for marijuana retail operations

It’s a way to keep a level playing field in Chilliwack ahead of legalization of recreational marijuana coming in July with the Cannabis Act.

The City of Chilliwack is creating a new zone for non-medical cannabis (NMC) stores, and putting blanket prohibition in place for private retail sales in all zones in the meantime, until legalization comes into effect.

Once all the federal guidelines and provincial licensing details are in place, a bylaw for a new draft zone in Chilliwack for private retail sales of NMC will be proposed, requiring public input and council consideration.

That means in the interim, dispensaries, stores and compassion clubs will still not be permitted to operate legally.

Coun. Jason Lum, who chairs the public safety advisory committee, offered his support for the staff recommendation, which came before council this week as a late item.

“I want to thank staff for the work they are doing preemptively on this file. It’s important that we create a level playing field,” Lum said.

A new zoning bylaw will prevent “speculators and queue-jumpers” from leaping in with an unfair advantage or “funny business,” while they await the federal guidelines that will come with legalization in mid 2018, Lum said.

READ MORE: Council to discuss retail

It’s not a delay tactic, the city councillor underlined. It just means everyone will have the same starting point.

Provincial reps just announced plans to give local governments the authority to regulate the private retail cannabis landscape, meaning creating applicable zoning bylaws, with a public hearing process built in. A mixed public/private retail scenario is being mapped out in B.C.

The province has pledged to make the rules governing retail stores similar to those for liquor stores.

READ MORE: Clearing the air on the rules

“We will create a draft zone and finalize it once we have a thorough understanding of the guidelines and legislation provided by the federal and provincial governments,” said Jamie Leggatt, communications manager for the city. “Simply put, this summer, retail marijuana sales will be a newly legal activity that we don’t yet have a zone for it, so we will need to create one. In the short time prior to creating a new zone, council decided to prohibit the use so that someone can’t attempt to pre-empt the public process.”

The new zone will trigger a public hearing being called for the bylaw amendment, and feedback is important.

“We will encourage our community to be part of the process. In the future, when a property owner wants to use a specific property for this new activity, there will also be a public hearing for the community to comment on the change in land use,” Leggatt said.

READ MORE: Chilliwack CAO on joint committee


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