White Rock cannabis dispensaries prohibited – for now

White Rock cannabis dispensaries prohibited – for now

Further review of issue promised by city at public hearing

White Rock council voted Monday in favour of a zoning amendment bylaw effectively prohibiting cannabis dispensaries as a land use in the city – following a public hearing in which many residents spoke in support of the medical benefits of marijuana-based products.

The zoning amendment bylaw passed third and final reading, with only Coun. David Chesney casting an opposing vote.

But Mayor Wayne Baldwin was at pains to point out to close to 100 people who filled council chambers for the hearing that the current amendment is viewed as a temporary measure only – or, as planning and development services director Carl Johannsen put it, “hitting the pause button” until the province makes its regulatory framework for cannabis dispensaries clear and the city and residents have the opportunity to review and provide input on the legalization of cannabis.

“Bear in mind this is an interim measure – it’s not the end of the world as we know it,” Baldwin said.

He reiterated this later in the public hearing, after hearing from many residents who support medical uses of marijuana, or have benefited from such use in alleviating pain and suffering for themselves or relatives.

“We’re not here to squelch medical marijuana – that’s not the purpose,” he said.

“It’s got to do with the fact that the province doesn’t have a clue, and we don’t have a clue, on what the rules are going to be. Until we get that, all of this is moot.”

“It will prevent the unauthorized retailing of cannabis in White Rock,” Johannsen had said earlier.

“Upon receiving the province’s framework for the regulation of cannabis, staff will review and bring recommendations forward to council…it’s expected a further amendment to the zoning bylaw as well as other city bylaws will be necessary to effectively regulate cannabis once it becomes legal,” he added.

Full legalization of cannabis (medical uses have been sanctioned since 1999) is expected to be passed nationally this summer.

Christie Fox – who said her 89 year-old mother has benefited from the use of medical marijuana products in managing chronic pain – told council “the evidence of the healing power of medical marijuana has spoken,” adding that “Shoppers Drug Mart and London Drugs will both be dispensing across Canada.”

“There are many dispensaries open now…that are running thriving legitimate businesses. B.C. is becoming a leader in medical marijuana. The old typical hippie with a doobie saying ‘far out, where’s the potato chips, I’ve got the munchies,’ is long gone – well, maybe there’s still a few here in White Rock.”

Traditional pharmaceuticals have failed people of all ages, races and genders, she said, “or have had disastrous side effects.”

“Medical marijuana brings relief – when you buy from a dispensary, the product is safe, and we would not be putting fentanyl on our streets.”

Tara Caine, executive director of Releaf Compassion Centers – which had an office at Five Corners before being burned out in the May 2016 fire – said her organization had been guiding just under 200 members on the uses of medical marijuana.

“By no means were we a dispensary,” she said, adding that Releaf had provided product on a prescription basis.

Kaila Motz of Releaf stressed the difference between recreational dispensing – which will primarily be affected by legalization this year – and medical dispensing, and repeated a past offer to assist the city in a pilot project to build a framework for establishing medical marijuana dispensaries in White Rock.

But Margaret Woods said medical marijuana should be dispensed through existing pharmacies and medical facilities which are already strictly regulated, rather than through ‘compassion clubs’ or other independent organizations.

“There are going to be a lot of entrepreneurs…it really is a business, they’re there to make money,” she said.

Garry Wolgemuth said the city should be promoting provision of a medical marijuana facility or store, which, he suggested, would thrive in White Rock.

“I don’t know why you’re discouraging it…from what I’ve seen in a lot of places this type of thing, where it’s stated as an interim, can grow into a long-term discouragement.”