Quesnel mayor wants to ensure City has full control on pot retailing

City’s spot-zoning process allows community input recreational marijuana pot shop locations

Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson wants residents to know what’s happening on the recreational marijuana front and how the City is going to handle its legalization when the federal government passes legislation this summer.

“I want to be crystal clear that the ‘open for business’ message from Williams Lake and 100 Mile House is strictly on the manufacturing side.

“We have the exact same zoning [and industrial and light industrial land] they have. I don’t think there’s many communities that aren’t interested in having a manufacturing facility.”

Simpson says Quesnel would create a separate business licence for cannabis manufacturing.

“When you talk to 100 Mile and Williams Lake, they’re struggling on the retailing side just like everybody else.”

The mayor adds it’s vitally important for the City to be prepared for the legalization of recreational marijuana.

“All advice from municipal lawyers and communities that have gone down this path are saying, ‘You don’t want to wait and see how it unfolds, you have to get control over it’ and that’s all we’re doing,”

The mayor says local governments weren’t sure what kind of retail process would be in place until Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced plans for a mixed public and private retail model for recreational cannabis on Feb. 5.

Recreational marijuana won’t be sold in liquor stores or other retailers.

Rather than having a Wild West and people are thinking they have this free-for-all and put cannabis stores wherever they want to, Simpson says the City is laying the foundation by saying retailing and manufacturing is not a permitted activity in any of the zones in the Quesnel, including industrial and light industrial.

That gives council the ability to deal with each application by using its “spot zoning” process, he notes.

In turn, it allows neighbourhoods to weigh in and express their concerns and make this council address those concerns, the mayor explains.

“This allows us to engage in meaningful discussion and gauge the community in how they want it to look in the community as this unfolds.

“It doesn’t preclude us having applicants coming to us, saying ‘we’re thinking about here; does that work with what you’re thinking and would you support an application’.”

Meanwhile, Simpson says the City’s Public Safety and Policing Committee will start work looking at best practices from other jurisdictions on locations – how far away from schools, how far away from another store, etc.

“In our case, we’re also looking at parks because we get a lot of kids in our parks and in our play grounds and so – you start asking those questions.

“Do you really want all of the vacant spaces Reid Street to become cannabis shops? We want that to be a premium retail street, so you don’t want – because of a willy nilly process – Reid Street to become ‘Cannabis Central’.”

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