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Houston council to tackle pot sales strategy

Bylaw changes among issues to be discussed
The province released broad guidelines last month, including setting the minimum age for legal pot sales at 19. (Houston Today file photo)

Houston council is to begin deliberating how it will handle the sale of non-medical legalized cannabis when it meets as a committee of the whole April 10.

Although the federal and provincial governments are working on legislation and regulations to legalize the sale of non-medical pot as early as this summer, municipal governments will have control via zoning and other methods to determine how and where and under what conditions the drug will be sold.

“Staff will present an overview of the legislation being reviewed federally, upcoming legislation from the province, and provide an overview of what would need to change with regard to the district’s bylaws, policies and procedures,” said District of Houston chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck.

“Ultimately, staff will be seeking direction from council to determine what bylaw and policy amendments will be necessary,” he said.

As it is, the province released broad guidelines last month setting the minimum age for legal sales at 19, to have its liquor distribution branch operate retail pot stores separate from provincial liquor stores and permit the sale of legal pot in private outlets which will need licences from the provincial liquor control and licensing branch.

Licensed retailers will not be allowed to sell pot in stores already selling liquor or tobacco.

In addition to point of sales control, municipal councils will also be able to establish rules where legal pot can be consumed.

Provincial policy so far is that adults will be able to use legal cannabis in public areas where tobacco smoking and vaping are permitted but consumption will be banned on community beaches, parks, playgrounds and other locations frequented by children.

But local governments will also be able to set out additional restrictions and landlords and strata councils will be able to establish their own rules.

Pinchbeck said council will also be asked how it wishes to engage the pubic in discussing the conditions under which legal pot will be sold in Houston.

“Unfortunately, brownies and other munchies won’t be provided; however, we encourage those who wish to learn more about legalized non-medical cannabis regulation to attend the meeting on April 10,” he said.

Other municipalities such as Williams Lake are preparing zoning regulations establishing buffer zones to exclude pot sale outlets within 500 metres of schools, daycares and major civic and public facilities.

Municipalities will also have the power to establish how far private pot sale outlets can be situated from each other.

Still to be decided is how the provincial government will split taxation revenues from pot sales with municipalities. The provinces themselves reached a deal late last year with the federal government to keep 75 per cent of taxation revenues with the federal government keeping the remaining 25 per cent.