Medical marijuana dispensaries are officially allowed within the City of Port Alberni—at least as far as the municipal government is concerned.
The votes remained the same as they have since the issue was first raised after WeeMedical opened its doors at the end October 2015 despite the public hearing preceding the council meeting. Mayor Mike Ruttan and Coun. Denis Sauve voted against regulating dispensaries and the other five councillors voted for regulations.
Over 40 people had packed council chambers earlier on Monday evening to voice their opinions—and the speaker’s list was split 9-8 for and against.
“Does council have the right to make these regulations?” asked Neil Anderson.
“Why are we doing this? We’ve got the cart ahead of the horse. It’s ass-backwards,” said new resident Fred Mann.
“Under the current law of the country of Canada, is what we’re doing here legal?”
“Under the current federal law, medical marijuana storefront dispensaries are not legal,” said city planner Scott Smith.
Local realtor Chuck Beyer spoke out in favour of regulations.
“What are the opportunity costs of not licencing these places? If you go a couple blocks from here and these stores are not open, the demand will simply be met by residential homes,” said Beyer.
“The police can’t possibly take care of it anymore… and politicians don’t lead, they follow. They stick their finger up in the air and they see which way the wind is blowing.”
Aaron Brevick, who owns a dispensary on Athol Street, raised concerns over privacy regulations.
“I’m not a big fan of the open glass storefront policy that’s being mandated. I believe that people should have the choice of privacy,” said Brevick. He wasn’t the only one to raise that concern
Lee Green from Nanaimo said that due to the current stigma on medical marijuana usage, people are embarrassed to buy it and deserve their privacy. Green suggested a frosted glass storefront instead of a clear one.
At the regular council meeting later on Monday night, council voted to approve zoning bylaw regulations as follow:
• dispensaries are allowed in general, service, highway commercial and core business zones
• dispensaries are not permitted within 1000 m of each other or 300 m of schools
• dispensaries must be dispensaries only—no shared use
• no ATMS
Approved business bylaw regulation include:
• all dispensaries, even non-profits require a $220 business licence
• store fronts must be transparent
• no minors
• signage to indicate product is unregulated
• an understanding that city bylaws do not mean compliance with senior government laws
Fines of $100-150 per day can be levied if the above requirements aren’t met, Smith said.