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Cumberland not so high right now on marijuana dispensaries

Applicants to open marijuana shops in Cumberland will have to wait now until the federal government comes out with new legislation. - File photo
Applicants to open marijuana shops in Cumberland will have to wait now until the federal government comes out with new legislation.
— image credit: File photo

Their hopes and expectations were high but they went crashing down in the end.

That was the general feeling after four applicants vying for a temporary use permit to establish a medical marijuana dispensary in the Village of Cumberland did not get what they wanted.

Representatives from Trugreen Solutions, Cumberland Pot Pourri, Mid Island Medicinals and Trichome Collective each presented their respective plans to Cumberland council on Monday night hoping to make a convincing case.

But council, who wanted the medical marijuana dispensary policy established prior to the federal government legalizing marijuana, was not as keen as they were when they started all this last June.

The eagerness shown by some of the councillors had drastically changed. And that has led council not to allow dispensaries in the village just yet.

Councillor Jesse Ketler recommended the permit be granted to Trichome Collective and it was supported by councillor Sean Sullivan. But the motion did not pass when Mayor Leslie Baird, councillors Roger Kishi and Gwyn Sproule voted against it.

Sproule pointed out there is almost a 180 degree reversal of public opinion on this issue. A survey held last year indicated most residents endorse the establishment of a medical marijuana dispensary but some residents, she said, are not clear about the legality of the dispensaries.

"It's quite clear, it is illegal until it becomes legal," said Sproule. "And that was something that a lot of people, including myself, did not really quite understand and thought by making a bylaw around it we would somehow have more opportunity to have input and to regulate the business."

Sproule explained she supported the medical marijuana dispensary policy so that the village will be ready when the federal government legalizes marijuana in Canada. She prefers to wait until the Trudeau government makes true its plan to legalize marijuana in 2018.

"The issue is that we, who are a legal body and who are lawmakers, are now suggesting breaking the law and not supporting the RCMP," said Sproule, who added "it just seems odd for a legal body to be promoting something illegal."

Councillor Roger Kishi expressed a similar position saying he wanted the village to be "pro-active" when pot becomes legal.

Sullivan said when council dealt with the policy a year ago, it was considered a public health issue. He added that people who need this medication should have access to it to improve their health.

"I don't believe for a second that the RCMP should be in charge of anything related to public health," said Sullivan, who also supports the Union of BC Municipalities, which endorsed the position that they have the power to regulate pot dispensaries.

Sullivan agreed with one of the proponent's statement that charges against dispensaries with business licences most often are dropped.

"I think it is better suited to our municipality to do what is best for our citizens in regards to dispensaries," said Sullivan. "We are not alone in this endeavour."

Sullivan pointed out Vancouver, Squamish, Victoria and Port Alberni have already offered business permits for dispensaries.

"We as a council unanimously decided to be ahead of this issue rather than behind it," said Sullivan. "The time for prohibition is ending and we have to put our ducks in a row to deal with this."

Sullivan shares the concerns of the "naysayers" but not their fears.

"Fear is not the answer," said Sullivan. "Transparency is the answer."

Mayor Leslie Baird said she is torn with this issue after having heard from people in the village.

"They're not opposing it but they want it to be legalized," said Baird, who added that a dispensary will not solve the marijuana problem in the village.

"I have been positive throughout this process and supporting it but at this point I can't support it until it is legalized."

Baird said the village has bylaws that they expect the residents to abide by.

"Now we're turning it around and going against the federal government's laws and that really doesn't sit well with me," said Baird.

Sproule made a motion that council table the application process until the federal and provincial governments come forward with legislation to legalize marijuana and will consider these temporary use applications at that time.

The motion was supported by Baird, Kishi and Sproule, with Kettler and Sullivan opposing it.

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