Analysis: What Princeton needs to know about pot

Public meeting Thursday designed for residents to share their views

It’s still a little hazy, how this whole legalized marijuana business is going to roll out.

Cannabis products are set to be available for sale and consumption in Canada on October 17, 2018.

The federal and provincial governments have provided legislative frameworks for the new order, however many of the important decisions are being left up to your municipal government.

The Town of Princeton is holding a public meeting this Thursday, July 12. It’s an opportunity for residents to share their desires and concerns.

Foremost the local council will decide whether or not cannabis products will be sold in Princeton.

If you care at all, yea or nay, this meeting is for you.

BC recently announced legislation striking a cannabis retail licensing regime similar to the current licensing process for liquor.

Towns and cities will be able to kill applications for permits to sell pot and all the related goodies. They can also craft their zoning, land use and business licensing bylaws to prohibit or limit the number of retail sales outlets, and set out where they may be located.

Information is already on line about how to apply for a license to sell marijuana products.

The newly rechristened Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch will accept applications and forward the information to the municipality. If the town does not comment, or responds negatively, the request dies on the table. Should council be willing to entertain an application for a specific location, a period of public consultation must be initiated.

Princeton council needs to be informed as to the community’s wishes. If there are to be retail marijuana sales, where do you want them?

Ought they to be downtown?

Should they be restricted to a quiet residential neighborhood, as some off-the-books dispensaries now operate in other centers?

Should there be perimeters around sensitive areas? For example, does Princeton want retail marijuana sales near schools, the hospital and other health care facilities, or close to seniors’ complexes?

Security, noise, traffic and parking are obvious points of consideration.

Again, your opportunity to provide input on these issues is Thursday July 12, 7 p.m. at the Riverside Centre.

Assuming there is somewhere, eventually, that you can purchase cannabis, where exactly are you going to be allowed to consume it?

Unlike Ontario – which is banning consumption in pubic spaces – BC is permitting it with some broad strokes, non-negotiable prohibitions.

Cannabis cannot be consumed near children, which puts school grounds, playgrounds, parks, restaurants and patios, beaches and sports fields off limits.

Further, municipal smoking bylaws will be extended to cover vaping and marijuana.

Princeton council passed a smoking bylaw in 2015 which prohibits “exhaling of the smoke from tobacco or other organic substance in the following places:

• Splash Park, Lions Parks on third, and second bench and Allison Flats, Tunnel Park, Westridge Park, Bike Park, Skateboard Park and Two Rivers Park.

• Within 10 meters of a window or doorway of a public facility.

• During an outdoor special event.

Fines range from $25 to $200.

So as it stands, and with doing nothing, all the parks in Princeton will be smoke and pot free, and it will not be permitted close to publicly accessed doors and windows or during outdoor events.

That said, municipalities are also able to amend their legislation, treating cannabis separately and imposing different restrictions provided those are supported by grounds such as health, safety or nuisance, and do not rest on a moral objection.

A municipality may, for example, ban marijuana use on streets and sidewalks.

Public input on this issue, that has perhaps the most ability to impact people’s daily lives, will be extremely important.

Another area where local governments may choose to exercise authority is with the regulations that allow adults to grow up to four cannabis plants per household. The plants must not be visible from public spaces off the property, and home cultivation will be banned in homes used as day-cares. Landlords and strata councils may also prohibit plant cultivation.

Your municipality may choose to regulate small scale marijuana growing by amending zoning and land use regulations to either prohibit the practice altogether, apply restrictions or institute a permit system.

What is it you want, Princeton?

Come October 17 anyone in BC 19 years or older (18 is the minimum age set out by the feds) is going to be able to purchase cannibas. The transition to these new laws and culture is demonstrably not a simple one.

In addition to the challenges described here there are going to be discussions about land use for commercial growing and processing facilities, cannabis in the workplace, driving under the influence and the costs of enforcement and policing.

Stay informed, attend the public meeting, keep your comments civil and listen to what others have to say.

Don’t forget to take time to chill. Relax dude. Have a…well…for now just have yourself a glass of wine.

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