Queen Charlotte is asking how residents want local marijuana businesses to take shape once the drug is legal.
The village recently launched an online survey asking what marijuana-based business people might support, what concerns they may have, and also whether they are keen to get started in the industry.
“It’s really about what our community is comfortable with,” says Lori Wiedeman, chief administrative officer for the Village of Queen Charlotte.
Wiedeman said the village hopes to take a more considered approach than some other B.C. municipalities, such as Vancouver and Victoria, where dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries cropped up ahead of changes to federal drug laws.
Two weeks ago, Queen Charlotte councillors gave first reading of a new zoning bylaw that would prohibit any marijuana businesses in the village before legalization comes into effect.
Ottawa is expected to introduce legislation that will slowly legalize and regulate marijuana sales sometime this spring.
“The whole point of the zoning we’re doing now is really just to give us breathing room to figure things out,” said Wiedeman.
Among the issues that might come up are noise, odor, and fire regulations, as well as rules about how close a marijuana store might be to a school, and whether growing operations should be in the village’s industrial zone.
“It’s coming into effect, and if we don’t have specific zoning in place, they can pop up anywhere,” said Councillor Richard Decembrini, speaking at a Feb. 2o council meeting.
“There will be a public consultation period, and we can discuss as a community how this will enter our space,” said Councillor Sabrina Frazier, who stood in as acting mayor for the meeting.
Several residents attended the meeting after seeing an Observer Facebook post that listed the new bylaw prohibitions, but did not explain why they are being considered.
Councillors decided not to pass the new bylaw right away to give people more time to learn about it.
“We are aware that there will be some questions asked, so we’re doing it slower by doing it one reading at a time,” said Councillor Ellen Foster.
Wiedeman said even before the new federal rules come into effect, the village could grant marijuana businesses a temporary-use permit, so long as they meet community guidelines.
The new bylaw is mainly intended to stop any unapproved operations from starting now and getting ‘grandfathered’ later when the federal rules eventually change.
“It sounds funny to be saying it, but we’re hoping to attract somebody interested in doing a grow operation — a commercial operation, either for recreational or medical,” she said, adding that it could bring full-time jobs to Haida Gwaii, not to mention a locally grown product.
As it happens, Queen Charlotte is the only incorporated village on island that does not have business licensing, which is another idea the village will be asking residents about soon.
“That would be another whole public consultation,” said Wiedeman.
“You have more control when you can give a licence or take a licence away, but what would that look like for all of the other businesses in town? We’d have to really think about that.”