Williams Lake resident Bryan Eden tells council during a special meeting Monday evening that he plans to become a licensed cannabis producer, but that he thinks the proposed zoning bylaw is too restrictive. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

Residents voice concerns about Williams Lake cannabis zoning bylaw

Around 32 people attended a public information meeting Monday to have input on the City’s proposed cannabis zoning bylaw

The smell of production, exposure to children of second-hand smoke, and the proposed bylaw being too restrictive, were some of the concerns voiced by residents at a cannabis information meeting held at city hall Monday evening.

During the meeting Williams Lake RCMP Insp. Jeff Pelley said presently cannabis falls under the controlled drug substance act and how things will change won’t be known until the federal government rolls out the new legislation on July 1.

“We know that this legislation is under a flux of change, but it is currently enforceable by the RCMP and there have been some cases here in town where the RCMP have enforced on retail businesses identified as marijuana dispensaries,” Pelley said. “There are legal mechanisms in place for the vendor to produce and provide marijuana for those individuals that require it and that’s through Health Canada.”

The RCMP support Health Canada’s efforts to ensure people with medical marijuana requirements have legal access to it, he added.

Police will target retail businesses that aren’t legal yet and take into account whether or not they have a valid business license, the size of the business, the number and nature of the complaints received about the business, the sale to youth and proximity to youth and other places where the public gathers, sales to vulnerable persons or persons without a medical diagnosis and a prescription, and direct access or ties to organized crime, Pelley said.

City planner Hasib Nadvi said the draft zoning bylaw stipulates that all retailers must be located at least 300 metres from schools, licensed daycares and the recreation complex and there must be a 500-metre distance between each retailer.

Production of cannabis will be only permitted in the industrial area at the north end of the city, and must be 100 metres away from any zone that allows residential use.

Resident Ken Davies said having cannabis production as close as 100 metres from a residential zone is not far enough away.

“Has consideration been given to the noxious smell, given the size of operations?” Davies asked.

Mayor Walt Cobb said production facilities will have to be enclosed and ventilated, but controlling a neighbour smoking it will be a whole different ball game.

Responding, Davies said the smell is going to far exceed 100 metres and asked who will hold companies accountable for controlling the smell.

Coun. Craig Smith said those are measures that can be worked into the bylaws.

“All we are talking about tonight is zoning, but once we get into signage and policies then all these things can be brought up,” he explained.

The smell, Cobb added, has been mentioned many times.

Bryan Eden told council he plans to become a licensed producer within city boundaries and has been exploring options with a real estate agent for developing a 50,000 to 60,000 square foot facility.

“We are planning to do this facility from scratch, and do not plan to use any previously set-up building,” Eden told council. “We need to make sure we have the facility to the proper specs, and we aren’t able to find that within existing buildings.”

Eden said he has only found one potential property in the cannabis and heavy industrial zone proposed by the City.

“Do you have a plan to expand the boundary in the future or currently?” he asked, to which Cobb said at this point any production will have to take place in the permitted zone.

Responding Eden suggested council look into other options.

Mary Jane’s Gift and Glass marijuana dispensary manager Mark Cowan said he is concerned about the 500-metre buffer between retailers in the bylaw and asked if the price of real estate was considered in the determining the buffer.

“The price of real estate did not factor in,” responded Coun. Jason Ryll. “It was online with current liquor control board regulations between liquor outlets. The current regulation is one kilometre and we went with 500 metres.”

Cowan also said he wondered if cannabis will be sold at farmers markets in the future, although Cobb said the bylaw states there will be no outside sales.

Based on information he gleaned at a cannabis conference he attended in Vancouver recently, Smith said if cannabis is home-grown, under the legislation it has to be for personal use and not for retail.

“You will not be able to buy a baggie, it will have to be registered like cigarettes,” Cobb added.

Resident Iris Lomavatu said if a sensitive area includes places where children go, she would like the Cariboo Community Church on Oliver Street added.

“There can be anywhere from 50 to 60 children there at a time,” she said.

Nadvi confirmed that churches are not included in the sensitive area and Smith said if council goes in that direction then it will have to start adding the Boys and Girls Club, Youth for Christ and other places.

Around 32 people attended the meeting and learned the draft bylaw will go for a second reading on June 12 and another public hearing for third reading on June 26.

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