Kamloops mayor says new marijuana dispensary bylaw 'not a money grab'

By Chad Klassen
December 20, 2017 - 12:05pm Updated: December 20, 2017 - 1:08pm

KAMLOOPS — The City of Kamloops is going ahead with its marijuana bylaw discussed Tuesday night at a public hearing at the Sandman Centre. 

Councillors voted 7-1 in favour of creating a new zoning definition for the retail sale of marijuana ahead of legalization on Canada Day 2018. In a second vote, a 5-3 decision, council is allowing the maximum fines for business license violations to jump up to $10,000 at the extreme. 

"Landlords are going to be looked to having business licenses for renting spaces, and they're supposed to be renting it to people who are obeying the law and having business licenses," said Christian. "The fine regime has changed. It's a range of fines now between $200 and $10,000 per business license bylaw offenses."

Christian, however, said it would unlikely for the city to fine a business the maximum amount immediately. 

"It's not a money grab from the perspective of the City of Kamloops," he noted. "I think our staff use a system of progressive enforcement, and what we're trying to do is just get people's behaviour to change and obey the law." 

There was vocal opposition Tuesday night to the city's proposed bylaw to rezone local marijuana dispensaries.

"It feels very abrupt, it feels very violent, it feels like there could've been a better way to go about this," said Andrew Quickfall, who works at one of the local dispensaries.

Many who spoke are marijuana users or work in the field, expressing concern about these dispensaries disappearing, even with legalization in July.

"The current license production scheme is limited in that it does not provide access to the most vulnerable individuals in our city, so there's an absolute need for dispensaries."

Currently, medical marijuana users must purchase it through the federal government, and not through local dispensaries. Wayne Street has 40 years experience with medical marijuana, including the last four years with cancer.

"Given a terminal diagnosis about four years ago, I'm still alive thanks to the compassion clubs," he said. "I will never buy from an online dealer of cannabis because you can't smell it, you can't tell what you're getting." 

The city has cited issues with some of the current dispensaries operating illegally, including the Canna Clinic on Hillside Drive that's been given cease and desist orders in the past. 

Landlords and tenants in the area expressed concern about safety. 

"It's not safe for both parents and children who use our facility. We operate a licensed child care. It's hard to co-exist when we get customers from the Canna Clinic smoking in front of our facility and driving away," said Kamloops lawyer Dennis Coates, a landlord reading a statement on behalf of a tenant. 

But Kevin Adams, who owns the dispensary Okanagan Cannabinoid Therapy on West Victoria Street, plead with the city to give the current operators a chance under the new bylaw. 

He pitched the idea of giving dispensaries an opportunity to purchase for a business license and relocate to an appropriate area the city approves. 

"The city charges $500 for the application for existing stores," said Adams. "Secondly, you charge $10,000 for a business license, prorate that $5,000 for the next six months. I just saved you $44,000 if everyone was to jump on that."

Based on the situation in Washington State with their marijuana laws, Adams warned not transitioning current dispensaries would be a mistake. 

"Washington State did not transition growers or dispensaries into their model. Washington State has a massive problem with the black market."

The bylaws take effect immediately and mayor Christian said bylaw will be taking action when needed. 

Councillors also voted 6-2 on receiving more information on the idea of offering temporary use permits to dispensaries before the July 1, 2018 legalization date.

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