A staff report received at the SCRD’s planning and community development committee on Feb. 8 outlines a lengthy list of possible impacts of the anticipated July 1 federal cannabis legalization on local government, but notes that “until provincial regulations relating to sale, possession and consumption are confirmed it is difficult to anticipate specific impacts.”
Possible issues identified by SCRD staff included pot smoking in parks or facilities, changes to zoning bylaws to deal with legal production, training for staff to deal with impairment in the workplace, increased motor vehicle accidents, or increases in calls for services from agencies such as the RCMP or Vancouver Coastal Health.
However, Area B Director Garry Nohr said that legalization is not his top concern; it’s regulating the medical marijuana grows that are already legal. (Health Canada issues licences to grow medical marijuana, but hasn’t put an inspection system in place due to privacy laws. So there is currently no enforcement of rules governing legal grows.)
Area E Director Lorne Lewis was the sole director to suggest that legalization of marijuana will have little impact locally. “I think almost anybody who wants to smoke pot on the Sunshine Coast is smoking it,” said Lewis. And although residents will be able to legally grow up to four plants, “I bet even the novelty of doing that wears off.”
Area D Director Mark Lebbell, citing concerns about hydro drawdowns, fire hazard and water use on the part of “a small number of unneighbourly neighbours”, proposed that SCRD staff organize a workshop for rural area directors on commercial cannabis production, retail sales, medical marijuana and personal use.
Nohr supported Lebbell’s motion. “When July 1 comes along, I think we need to sit down as a board and find out where we stand,” said Nohr.
While Lebbell’s motion was passed, board chair Bruce Milne expressed concern about the number of workshops being requested by directors, characterizing the situation as: “we’re not sure what to do, so let’s have a workshop.” He acknowledged that directors need to become informed about issues they will be making decisions about, but said: “an over-abundance of workshops is probably not the solution.”