City of Vancouver proposes new rules to regulate recreational marijuana

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      With pot becoming legal on October 17, the City of Vancouver is moving to change its bylaws in order to regulate the sale of recreational cannabis.

      The proposed bylaw amendments are meant to align with new federal and provincial rules regarding marijuana.

      Currently, the city’s zoning and development, and licence bylaws cover only retail for what is officially called Medical Marijuana-Related Uses or MMRU.

      According to a staff report prepared by Kathryn Holm, chief licence inspector with the city, the definition of MMRU in both bylaws needs to be dropped to “encompass the sale on non-medical cannabis”.

      This means the creation of a new retail use, which is cannabis retail.

      Once approved, the term ‘cannabis store’ will mean a place for the sale of marijuana. A person selling marijuana will be known as ‘retail dealer – cannabis’.

      “Once cannabis is legalized, the existing MMRU Regulations will no longer serve their intended purpose as they will not regulate the opening of retail cannabis locations in retail zones,” Holm explained in the report. “Non-medical cannabis will be a legal product which can be sold lawfully, from a zoning perspective, in any retail zone.”

      Holm continued by noting that if existing MMRU definitions are not changed, “then any retail cannabis store located in a retail district could be immune to subsequent zoning changes”.

      On June 24, 2015, the city passed rules to regulate medical-marijuana-related businesses and compassion clubs.

      In order to operate, a medical marijuana store or compassion club need a development permit and a business licence.

      As well, these entities can do business only in commercial zones, and at least 300 metres from schools, community centres, neighbourhood houses, youth facilities serving vulnerable young people, and other cannabis shops.

      In her report, Holm noted that city staff “believe that the distancing rules established for MMRUs are logical and effective and should be maintained for all cannabis retail”.

      “The rules and processes established for MMRU permits and licensing are consistent with those of liquor stores and fit cleanly into the regulatory regime being implemented by the Province for retail distribution of legal non-medical cannabis,” Holm wrote. “In addition, and like liquor stores, staff expect that in addition to requiring a development permit and provincial licence, retail outlets will also be required to obtain a municipal business licence.”

      Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed bylaw changes on Tuesday (June 26).