By ROY WOOD
There will be no public consultations regarding how the town of Osoyoos goes about implementing legalized marijuana sales and consumption.
During a broad-ranging discussion at this morning’s committee of the whole, council voted unanimously against community consultations beyond the normal public hearing process that accompanies zoning bylaw amendments.
Such amendments will be necessary since none of the town’s current zones allow the non-medical sale of cannabis products.
Consideration of how to deal with the public sale and consumption of marijuana has been made necessary the federal government’s decision to legalize its recreational use. The new law is expected to be come into force in the fall.
A report from chief administrative officer Barry Romanko suggested that a public consultation might address issues including:
- Should cannabis sale be allowed in Osoyoos at all?
- How many stores?
- Should stores be public or private sector?
- Where should store be allowed to open?
- Hours of operation?
- Should there be business licence restrictions?
- Where to allow public consumption?
Today’s discussion was led by two councillors – CJ Rhodes and Mike Campol – both of whom expressed strong views against interference with businesses who may emerge in the cannabis market.
Rhodes pointed out that cannabis stores will likely be privately owned and “and when we do things that restrict business and the free enterprise process in our community, I just think its wrong most of the time.”
Campol said he strongly agrees with Rhodes. “At the end of the day this is going to be a … legal business to operate and it should be treated like any other business,” he said.
“I don’t see the need to spend the time or money on public consultation on this matter. I think these become zoning issues that we can deal with here in council.”
As for the broader question of the effects of marijuana, Rhodes told his council colleagues: “I like the benefits of cannabis, health-wise (and) the emotional and other things that it helps. It helps people get through the day and be better at the end of the day.”
Campol said he has been a long-time advocate for the legalization of marijuana for two reasons: “I want to see an end to families being broken up by people going to jail for their involvement in it and the for the health benefits, specifically in our community with our demographic.”
In an interview later, Campol said the active ingredient in cannabis is often healthier for people suffering age-related health problems than opioids and other conventional treatments.
The two councillors disagree on the issue of public consumption however, with Rhodes taking a laissez-faire attitude and Campol preferring people use marijuana at home or in businesses akin to bars for pot.
Rhodes said he would rather see tobacco consumption made illegal. “I find tobacco smoke to be incredibly offensive. … Second hand smoke is identified as a health risk. You don’t get that from cannabis smoke. I’d like to see tobacco banned completely in our country and open up the door to cannabis, because there are so many more benefits.”
Campol disagreed. “We don’t allow people to use alcohol in the public square and so I believe (smoking marijuana) is something people should do in their private residences. And if the government allows private businesses to open doors for consumption purposes, that’s fine with me, too.”
In a second resolution, council agreed to send a letter to the provincial government seeking clarification on its rationale for public consumption, including in so called “tasting rooms,” which are basically businesses where members of the public may smoke pot.
The province has announced that pubic consumption will be banned in parks, beaches, playgrounds and other places frequented by children.
Osoyoos, like other municipalities, is concerned about the costs they will incur in regulating the sale and consumption of legal marijuana. Civic government believe that they should get a cut of the considerable taxes that will be generated by cannabis sales.
Mayor Sue McKortoff told council that at a recent meeting of BC mayors “(they) were quite united in making sure that the province and the feds understand that we need a share of these taxes (from cannabis sales). … Many communities have written letters requesting a share (of) about 50 per cent.”