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Squamish Council considers marijuana rules

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Like Vancouver and Port Alberni, Squamish may soon have its own rules for marijuana dispensaries.

Council mulled over potential regulations for dispensaries at the committee of the whole Tuesday.

The newly elected federal government has promised to legalize marijuana and provide a regulatory framework for its sale, but in the meantime there is a void that leaves municipalities like Squamish with illegal storefront dispensaries and no guidelines to follow. 

“In the absence of federal leadership, dispensaries have caused some trouble for municipalities,” said district planner John Chapman. 

Chapman recommended council consider regulations to manage the location and operation of dispensaries, expected to increase here due to the promised legalization and the newly implemented $30,000 business license fee in Vancouver that may drive business owners up the corridor. 

“By establishing regulations now, we can avoid the proliferation of dispensaries in places where you don’t want them to be,” Chapman said.

Some communities, such as Duncan, have amended zoning and licensing to prohibit dispensaries, he said, but no one on council seemed to favor that option.

No regulations were set at the meeting. Instead, staff was encouraged to finesse its recommendations and come back to council.

 “This is a good discussion to have and as we transition to something new, it is good to be cautious,” said Councillor Jason Blackman-Wulff. “I think the main principle being that we want to encourage operators who are responsible and follow good protocols around their dispensaries.” 

One option staff proposed is council making changes to the zoning bylaw to allow dispensaries in retail zones, except on Cleveland Avenue. Restrictions would include being 300 metres from schools and other dispensaries and not allowing dual usage for dispensaries.

Another option proposed was to put in restrictions such as limiting the hours of operation to daytime and banning consumption on the premises and delivery services. 

Staff recommended a fee for business licenses between $4,000 and $5,000.

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