The decision to increase the minimum space between marijuana dispensaries in the rezoning and licensing process is a way of the City of Victoria to regain control over who operates a business in the city. Victoria News file photo

EDITORIAL: City of Victoria taking back regulatory control with pot shop decision

Reaction to public outcry, change to rules paralells situation with liquor retail stores in 2000s

A decision to increase the minimum distance between marijuana dispensaries in Victoria, as part of the rezoning and business licensing process for such shops, was no doubt applauded by many.

It seems this creating of a larger buffer zone – from 200 to 400 metres between shops – at an earlier point in the process could have helped avoid the proliferation of such outlets, which sprung up in virtually every neighbourhood in very short order.

The city has been putting together temporary measures to deal with this matter since the federal Liberal government stated it would eventually be legalizing the sale of cannabis in this country.

The horse was let out of the barn with the City’s lax early stance and this is an attempt to assume control over who is allowed to do business, through regulatory measures. The fact very few of the more than 30 shops currently operating even have a business licence, is a slap in the face to merchants who faithfully make sure their licence is up to date and follow zoning rules.

Coun. Margaret Lucas, one of the councillors who brought forward the increased buffer zone motion after listening to concerns from neighbourhood associations and others, added clarity to the situation. Employed in the hospitality industry for some time, she experienced firsthand the change of heart by government during the whole private liquor store process.

Rules around the placement of such outlets, along with local municipal zoning issues, look far different today than when the province first began breaking B.C. Liquor Stores’ stranglehold on the selling of alcohol in the early 2000s. Most of those changes were a result of public and business feedback, Lucas noted.

Coun. Ben Isitt’s point that the number of shops should be based on market demand for such products also makes sense. But this is not cafés or meat markets, it’s the sale of products in which the key ingredient remains illegal, which understandably makes many people nervous.

While there remains no federal regulatory structure in place for cannabis sales, public and business feedback have helped Victoria be ahead of the curve when it comes to the future retailing in these products.

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