Council rejects public consultation on pot retailing

By on March 20, 2018

Coun. C.J. Rhodes would rather see public smoking of pot than tobacco. (Richard McGuire photo)

Osoyoos residents will not get a say through a public consultation on how marijuana is sold in this community once it’s legalized other than through normal zoning bylaw amendments.

Council voted Monday not to hold public consultations on a series of questions surrounding cannabis retailing that were contained in a staff report.

“I don’t see the need to spend the time or money on a public consultation on this matter,” said Coun. Mike Campol, who introduced a motion to bypass any public consultations.

“I think these become zoning issues … that we can deal with here in council. We’re talking about a product that is going to be legalized, which means people have the right to consume it, the right to grow it and the right to create business out of it.”

Among the questions identified for possible public feedback in a report prepared by Barry Romanko, chief administrative officer, were:

  • Should cannabis retail business be allowed in Osoyoos?
  • If yes to the above, how many stores?
  • Should retail be limited to public stores, or is there a need to consider private sector stores?
  • Where should these stores be allowed to open and how should they be zoned?
  • What are the hours of operation?
  • What business license restrictions need to be implemented?
  • Where do we allow public consumption of cannabis?

On that last question, council passed a second motion directing staff to draft a letter from Mayor Sue McKortoff to the provincial government requesting clarification relating to the decision to allow public consumption of cannabis.

Unlike such U.S. jurisdictions as the states of Washington and Colorado that have legalized cannabis, but prohibit its use in public, the B.C. government is proposing that it be permitted to use it “in public spaces where tobacco smoking and vaping are permitted.”

The B.C. proposal would still prohibit it in areas frequented by children such as community beaches, parks and playgrounds as well as by any occupants of a vehicle.

The issue of public consumption touched off a debate between Coun. C.J. Rhodes and Campol, with Campol opposing it, but Rhodes saying in a self-described “rant,” that he doesn’t dislike the smell of smoked marijuana.

“I kind of like it,” said Rhodes. “I think it smells pretty good. I like the benefits of cannabis, healthwise, emotional and other things. It helps people get through the day and be better at the end of the day because of it.”

Rhodes continued that he finds tobacco smoke “incredibly offensive,” adding that secondhand tobacco smoke is a health risk, but he couldn’t find any evidence that secondhand cannabis smoke is.

“I’d like to see tobacco banned totally in our country and open up the door to cannabis, because there are so many benefits,” said Rhodes, arguing that present restrictions on public tobacco smoking aren’t sufficient.

Campol disagreed, saying that alcohol consumption in public isn’t permitted. While he conceded Rhodes’ point that beer gardens are allowed, he noted that there is a rigorous permitting process.

“There is an aspect of impairment to cannabis,” Campol pointed out, seeming to imply that it’s unlike tobacco in that regard.

“I’ve made no secrets as far as my position on cannabis,” Campol continued. “I’ve always felt it should be legalized and free enterprise… We don’t allow alcohol … and other drugs to be used in the public square. So I believe it should be something people should do within their own residences.”

Both councillors favoured private cannabis stores, but none of council expressed support for publicly run retail outlets.

The B.C. government has chosen to allow a mix of public and private retailers, while some other provinces, mainly in Eastern Canada, have opted only to permit publicly run outlets, such as by provincial liquor monopolies.

In his “rant,” Rhodes also took federal and provincial governments to task for handing off decisions about retailing to municipalities.

“I’d like to start this little rant off with expressing my contempt and disappointment about federal and provincial governments downloading these kinds of things onto the small municipalities like our community,” said Rhodes. “It’s unfair, it’s costly, when all of the legislation could be done at the federal level and make it a lot easier for everybody to deal with.”

Other council members had much less to say on the subject, though Mayor McKortoff reported on a discussion she attended with other mayors last week in Squamish.

Coun. Jim King supported Romanko’s report calling it “straightforward.”

Coun. Carol Youngberg, appearing exasperated by the lengthy debate between Campol and Rhodes, only asked for clarification of whether there was a motion on the floor.

The meeting saw several pot puns thrown out, including when Romanko referred to a “joint” committee between the province and the Union of B.C. Municipalities discussing sharing of excise tax revenue.

“It’s high time we end the meeting,” Campol quipped after the vote on the second motion.

RICHARD McGUIRE

Osoyoos Times

Coun. Mike Campol said it isn’t worth spending the time or money on a public consultation about cannabis retailing in Osoyoos. He introduced a motion to bypass that step. (Richard McGuire photo)

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5 Comments

  1. ST

    March 20, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    Hmmm….public not allowed to be heard on controversial topic affecting entire town….a few Councillors determined to impose their will on the town….municipal election Oct. 2018….this should prove interesting.

  2. Oj McPuffer

    March 20, 2018 at 4:59 pm

    If either of these two open up shop in town, there is something fishy going on..

    • Mike Campol

      March 20, 2018 at 5:21 pm

      The motion was passed with unanimous consent. I have no plan to open up shop but I can’t speak for the Mayor 😉

  3. P G

    March 21, 2018 at 11:53 am

    Alcohol consumption is permitted in public with a special license FYI. Don’t think they will give out permits for Bong on the Beach day but I could be wrong.

  4. Icebear

    April 16, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    As per the governments outline on the subject local governments Must ask locals their opinion on the number and location of stores but thanks.

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