Saanich’s proposed approach to the regulation of recreational marijuana appears straight forward compared to other communities, while adding to the diversity of approaches.
Saanich staff is recommending council limits the sale of recreational marijuana to commercial zones that permit liquor sales, citing among other points that the authority regulating the retail of recreational marijuana has also been regulating the retail of liquor.
Sharon Hvozdanski, Saanich’s director of planning, said staff’s recommended option would see council use the same process that council currently uses when it considers rezoning applications for new liquor retail stores.
This apparent refusal to reinvent the regulatory wheel from scratch stands in stark contrast to other regional municipalities, where regulatory regime vary, according to a report from Saanich staff.
North Saanich, Sidney, Oak Bay, View Royal and Metchosin currently prohibit the sale of non-medical cannabis, with some of those communities giving themselves space to reverse their current prohibition following consultations.
By way of background, Saanich remains in this category, after it passed a complete ban on recreational marijuana.
Colwood also prohibits recreational marijuana in all zones except when undertaken within a licensed pharmacy, an approach found nowhere else in the region.
Esquimalt and Highlands are less restrictive, but applicants in those communities face obstacles. Central Saanich will only allow a permanent cannabis retail store after an applicant has operated a cannabis retail store for a minimum of two years under a temporary use permit that may last for three years and may only be renewed once for a total of six years. Applicants, in other words, are subject to a probationary period. Langford has offered a comparable model through the issuance of temporary use permits under a pilot project.
Esquimalt and Highlands are less restrictive in permitting site-specific applications, an approach Saanich staff do not favour because of its potential to cause delays for would-be entrepreneurs and neighbourhood conflicts.
The approach used by the small Westshore community of Sooke approaches Saanich’s approach the closest in limiting cannabis retail use to specific zones, while also limiting the total number of stores to three, subject to various restrictions.
Finally, Victoria has created a separate zone for cannabis sales in having perhaps created the most liberal approach towards recreational marijuana retail.