Today’s Poll

Feedback from stakeholders sets stage for city open house on recreational cannabis regulations on May 1

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
April 25th, 2018

Location, location, location was the key message of the first leg of the cannabis survey the city has undertaken to craft and draft its first recreational cannabis bylaw.

The requirement of a separation distance from schools, youth facilities and other areas that youth and children frequent was the principal concern heard from feedback received from stakeholder groups, said city director of development services, Pam Mierau, in her report on the recreational cannabis public engagement results.

As well, most people felt recreational cannabis should be regulated under the city’s Clean Air Bylaw for smoking and consuming cannabis, and a cap needed to be placed on the number of recreational cannabis businesses allowed.

“Most areas across the country supported no public consumption,” said Mierau.

Feedback forms were distributed to 4,959 households and 686 businesses during the first and second week of February, said Mierau, with response rate of 32 per cent of households and 27 per cent of businesses mailing back their form.

“The business community, social sector and Nelson Police Department felt there should be a limited number of stores and no public consumption in the downtown,” said Mierau.

“Clearly, having someone smoking cannabis and someone smoking cigarettes on the same spot creates challenges, so you are going to have to look at it,” said city manager Kevin Cormack.

“The unique challenge is the scent of cannabis” and where that would be allowed, he added.

Health professionals and schools were most concerned with protecting youth and residents from adverse effects of cannabis, while seniors advocated for minimum regulations.

“The cannabis industry was split on the need for a cap on retail stores versus a free market approach,” Mierau explained. “Most existing medical cannabis stores advocated for allowing their stores to transition to recreational cannabis.”

Both businesses and the general public were very clear that there should be a maximum number of retailers allowed (1,331 responses or 75 per cent). Overall, four stores was the maximum average of what people were comfortable allowing.

Overall, people felt that four stores was the maximum number of cannabis retail stores that should be allowed in Nelson. In the downtown, people felt up to two stores should be allowed, with either zero or one store allowed in the four other commercial areas in the

“The idea of limiting it to four stores when clearly we have seven functioning currently, that there is demand for, to reduce it even more to me it is like capping free enterprise in the community,” said Coun. Val Warmington. “I understand that we don’t want to get excessive, but we need to open it up for demand.”

As far as hours of operation, there was no consensus on when the businesses could operate, but for both businesses and the general public most were in agreement that the operating hours should be the same as liquor stores: 9 a.m. — 11 p.m. (623 responses or 35 percent).

There was also strong support for more restrictive operating hours from 8 a.m. — 8 p.m. (550 responses or 31 per cent).

Around 43 per cent of respondents felt people should be able to grow cannabis anywhere on their property (764 responses or 43 per cent), but there was less support for not being able to grow cannabis near the property boundary, as well as for only growing it indoors (22 percent and 23 per cent, respectively).

“Just because people can doesn’t mean they will,” said Kozak. “Why don’t we just see how it goes? If it’s not visible from the street — if people abide by that — and we don’t have any problems with it, let’s leave it be.”

Coun. Janice Morrison felt the new regulations would encourage more people to grow cannabis.

“Why put in restrictions when we don’t have a problem?” said Warmington. “If we get complaints we can revisit it.”

Most people (62 per cent) felt public consumption of cannabis should follow the Clean Air Bylaw, while smoking and “vaping” should be banned in all public places (59 per cent strongly in favour).

There was no clear consensus in regards to the prospect of allowing lounges or cafés where smoking or “vaping” cannabis is allowed, with 32 per cent somewhat agreeing they should be allowed, 29 per cent strongly agreeing and 28 per cent strongly disagreeing.

Regarding enforcement, around 40 per cent of respondents strongly agreed the city should have the resources to enforce smoking cannabis in public, 24 per cent somewhat agreed while 22 per cent strongly disagreed.

On the question of whether people supported or opposed the legalization of cannabis for recreational use in Canada, 43 per cent strongly supported it, 30 per cent somewhat supported it, while only 16 per cent were strongly opposed.

The city will be hosting an open house on May 1 at The Adventure Hotel, with the presentation of a draft bylaw if possible.

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