Tougher stance to be taken by city on marijuana dispensaries operating in a 'gray area' of the law
Penalties and possible jail time now await those businesses in the city that carry on operations that do not comply with federal, provincial and municipal laws, bylaws, regulations and codes.
Last week city council passed final reading on the Bylaw Notice Enforcement bylaw expected to give municipal officials the legislative wherewithal to deal with illegitimate marijuana dispensaries.
Over the past year, several storefronts — at least five — selling medical marijuana have opened in Nelson, according to city staff.
With these businesses operating in an unregulated area while the federal government considers legalizing marijuana, the opening of these storefronts had brought to the city’s attention deficiencies within its own Business Licence Bylaw that required businesses to comply with existing federal, provincial and municipal laws, bylaws, regulations and codes in order to operate.
Council’s new legislation now requires businesses that carry on operations in Nelson, but do not comply with various governmental levels of law, bylaw, regulations and codes, to be subject to penalties under the city’s Bylaw Notice Enforcement bylaw.
“As well all know, we are all operating in a bit of a gray area when it comes to marijuana. Every city is handling this different,” said Mayor Deb Kozak during third reading.
“The position of Nelson city council has been: We do not want to be involved in regulating the marijuana business, the marijuana dispensaries. As local government that is not our purview.”
There had to be some separation between medical and recreational marijuana, Kozak noted.
Additional changes were made to the bylaw to provide clarity regarding:
- the powers of the business licence inspector;
- the city’s requirements for holding of a business licence;
- the payment of fees.
“If someone applies for a business and is contrary to federal, provincial or our own bylaws, we won’t issue a business licence,” said city director of corporate services Frances Long.
Depending on what damage is done, the city has the option to either write a bylaw notice for a penalty up to $500 or, for more serious infractions, the city has the option to proceed to court where a summary conviction could result in a penalty up to $10,000.
On being found guilty of an offence under the proposed bylaw, a person will be liable to pay a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or be subject to both.
If in default of payment of the fine a person could be subject to imprisonment for an additional term not exceeding six months under the Offence Act.
The previous Business Licence bylaw was adopted in 1990 and contained references to old legislation, with no language with respect to penalties and enforcement.
The city is legally empowered with the authority to regulate business within corporate limits under section eight (fundamental powers) of the Community Charter.
The city’s building inspector is appointed as the business licence inspector as well.
The licence inspector may require that an applicant for a business licence provide proof of certification, approval or qualification required by a federal, provincial or local government authority having jurisdiction over the business.
The requirement changes limit one licence per business per premise, the transferability of the licence and the requirement to adhere to federal and provincial laws that have jurisdiction over such businesses. The city may choose to prosecute offenders through the courts.
Notice of the changes to the Business Licence Bylaw will be provided on the city’s website, online advertising and Facebook page. The Business Licence Bylaw will be made available on the city’s website.
Farmers’ market support
City council is calling on the province to bring back a progressive program aimed at healthier food choices and supporting local farmers’ markets.
In response to a letter received from the B.C. Association of Farmers’ Markets explaining the positive results of B.C. Farmers’ Market Nutrition coupon program (FMNCP), some city councillors requested that a letter be sent to the minister of Health, Terry Lake, in support of the program.
The resolution passed, asking the province to continue to fund the program.
The coupon program was funded by the province through Healthy Families B.C. and worked to make fresh, local foods more available and promote healthy eating in communities across the province.
Over the past year, the Nelson Farmers’ Market and Kootenay Kids Society worked with the FMNCP to provide coupons to lower-income pregnant women, families and seniors for fresh produce at the farmers’ market in Nelson.
A total of $10,730 was invested in Nelson through the program last year.
Search and rescue services
Member municipalities will be paying 25 per cent more for the regional search and rescue service in the coming year.
On Monday city council approved the Regional District of Central Kootenay’s bylaw on the taxation increase. It will now be presented to the RDCK board for adoption on March 17.
The RDCK had confirmed that participants involved in the search and rescue service have agreed to increase the requisition limit by 25 per cent in accordance with regional district establishing bylaw approval exemption regulation. Upon two-thirds consent in the entire proposed service area, the bylaw may be adopted.
The bylaw will impact City of Nelson taxpayers since the maximum funding that may now be requisitioned annually for the search and rescue service will increase to $43,750 in accordance with this bylaw.