North Cowichan drops distance rules in pot shop criteria

Policy didn’t work for places like Chemainus and Crofton

Distance requirements will no longer be considered by North Cowichan for applications for retail marijuana outlets in the municipality.

Council made the decision at its meeting on July 17 after concluding that the criteria around distances proved to be more difficult to deal with than originally anticipated once council began accepting applications for the shops earlier this year.

“We found in our discussions that our policy guidelines (for retail marijuana outlets) that were recommended to us by Island Health might work for larger centres, but they don’t work for us in such places like Crofton and Chemainus,” Mayor Al Siebring said at the meeting.

At a meeting of the committee of the whole on July 8, it was recommended to council that the criteria council established in January that pot shops must be located at least 300 metres from each other and a minimum of 600 metres from schools, playgrounds and places where children and youth gather be dropped.

Council was finding that, in practice, vast areas in the communities in the municipality were being excluded from opening pot shops under the distance guidelines.

The new guidelines state that council will now only consider the impact of retail cannabis sales in proximity to schools, playgrounds, libraries, public recreation centres, parks, places of worship, family-oriented facilities, or areas where children and youth frequent when applications for the stores are received.

As well, the requirements that cannabis stores in North Cowichan must be located on a major road and on land already zoned for commercial uses is staying in place.

In related news, council also decided at its meeting on July 17 that the public hearing for the application from the BC Liquor Distribution Branch to open a retail pot store in Cowichan Commons be postponed.

Council gave the first two readings to a resubmitted application from Costa Canna, a partnership led by the Cowichan Tribes, at the meeting to open a cannabis store in the same shopping mall.

Costa Canna must now host a public information meeting for the neighbours of the site and submit its finding to council before the application goes to a public hearing.

To ensure fairness in the process, council is planning to hold the public hearing for both applications at the same time, so the public hearing for the LDB will be postponed until the application from Costa Canna reaches the public hearing stage.

Siebring said the decision reflects the motion made by council in May that both applications should be considered together.

“Costa Canna’s application has gotten tied up with provincial regulatory paperwork,” he said

“But we’re not going to consider one without the other. We want to see both side by side.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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