A moratorium has been placed on the creation of recreational cannabis businesses in Nelson in order to buy some time for the city to craft legislation to regulate them in anticipation of legalization.
City council passed a zoning amendment bylaw to regulate recreational cannabis sales on Monday night during its first regular meeting of the year, the move concerning potential recreational cannabis businesses, not the six medical cannabis dispensaries currently operating in the city.
The moratorium will provide city staff with enough time to obtain public input on regulations for recreational marijuana sales prior to legalization in July 2018. The purpose in instituting a moratorium in Nelson is to ensure that recreational retail sales outlets that may open prior to completion of the public consultation process will not receive a status of existing non-conforming.
At the Dec. 18 special council meeting city council passed the first two readings of the Zoning Amendment Bylaw, paving the way for the Jan. 8 public meeting.
However, only two people spoke at the public meeting prior to the legislation being introduced in the regular meeting.
City council endeavoured to craft amendments to zoning bylaw 3199 to define “marijuana operation” — a term that it later voted to change to cannabis operation — as a new use in the zoning bylaw which includes any activities related to recreational marijuana, including retail sales.
The amendment bylaw defines cannabis operation as “the cultivating, growing, producing, packaging, storing, distributing, dispensing, advertising, trading or selling of cannabis (marijuana) or its derivatives but excludes city-approved cannabis-related businesses.”
In order to provide grounds for a temporary moratorium on recreational usage, the amendment blanketed the city, not allowing it in any zone in Nelson.
The bylaw amendment is expected to remain in place until the provincial legislation and regulations are passed into law and the city has completed its community consultation process and developed its own regulations.
There is some difference between medical marijuana — the whole, unprocessed plant or the chemicals contained within it to alleviate the symptoms of certain conditions or diseases — and recreational marijuana.
Recreational marijuana is the plant that is used without medical justification, usually containing more THC content than the medicinal variety.
The city is now expected to obtain “broad public feedback” on its areas of responsibility prior to introducing new regulations recreational cannabis in the city, reflecting provincial and federal legislation on the matter.
The city is also expected to develop zoning, business licensing and possibly Clean Air Bylaw amendments that will be shaped by information gathered through the public consultation process and that meet the requirements of federal and provincial legislation and objectives.