Let’s talk cannabis.
Or rather, let’s talk how Port McNeill council gave first reading to a bylaw they say will temporarily prohibit the sale of cannabis inside the town’s boundaries until after they form a marijuana committee to help shed some light on the matter.
Port McNeill’s marijuana committee should be formed around August to September and they will deliver their findings to council anywhere from October to December, which just so happens to coincide with the upcoming municipal election. There will also be a public consultation on the matter June 18, which will be held before council’s regular meeting.
Coun. Jay Dixon spoke out at the town’s last council meeting where the bylaw was discussed, stating he doesn’t want the sale of cannabis to become an election issue.
No offence to Jay, I have a lot of respect for the man and think quite highly of him as a person, but if you wait until right in the middle of a municipal election to decide on something, especially a subject as divided as whether to allow the sale of cannabis in town or not, I don’t see how it can’t become an election issue.
I’m still confused as to why they didn’t act on this matter a long time ago. Port Hardy council formed a marijuana committee way back in August of 2017, held a bunch of productive meetings, and then reported to council with their findings. Port Hardy’s cannabis bylaw passed its first reading on May 22, and they are well on their way to having it officially made law before the municipal election.
Jay made a great point at the meeting that Port McNeill doesn’t have to do everything the same way as Port Hardy, which I 100 per cent agree with, but the fact of the matter is they should have had this issue done and dealt with by now.
Instead, it seems like they’ve dragged their feet and put it off as long as they could before deciding, seemingly out of nowhere, to draft a bylaw that will ban business owners from selling cannabis in town, which they say is only temporary.
Now, what do I mean by this bylaw coming from ‘out of nowhere’?
I’ve covered roughly 150 council meetings over my almost three years here at the Gazette. I’ve covered Port Hardy council, Port McNeill council, Port Alice council, and a handful of Regional District and School Board meetings as well. Usually, council has a discussion during an open meeting and then directs staff to look into the issue and report back.
There was no discussion of the sale of cannabis at any Port McNeill council meeting that I have personally attended, which means there was no direction to staff to look into the matter. I asked council where the bylaw originated from and they gave me a legitimate response. To break it down in basic terms, Jay and Mayor Shirley Ackland worked together with staff behind the scenes on the issue.
Coun. Shelley Downey confirmed they have never discussed the bylaw as a group at a council meeting (and have never discussed it as a group outside of a council meeting either), and that councillors were given material to read to keep them up to date. The first reading of the bylaw was passed in roughly under two minutes with next to no discussion, just all the councillors voting unanimously for it (Coun. Aaron Frost was absent from the meeting, so his vote and opinion may never see the light of day).
To be clear, I’m not saying that Port McNeill should allow cannabis to be sold in town. I would actually have no issues with council deciding to ban the sale of cannabis inside their town boundaries forever.
Once it’s legalized, everyone is just going to travel to Port Hardy and spend their money there instead.