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Port Hardy readies cannabis policy – will it be enough?

‘Opening a local dispensary will have all sorts of unforeseen socio-economic impacts.’

The Trudeau administration passed a piece of legislation which will legalize the selling and taxing of marijuana, Bill C-45, into the Senate. In fact, Vancouver has recently proposed those who want to buy cannabis will have to follow similar guidelines to alcohol regulations, that is, you have to be the age of majority. Suburbs surrounding the metro hub as well as rural towns across BC will no doubt follow close in its footsteps.

In our region, the Mayor of Kelowna recently presented to Port Hardy’s Mayor and Council, outlining a set of provisions for when our town has to deal with the cannabis issue.

Mayor and Council went to great lengths to prepare for C-45 and continue to do so. In fact, they recently launched a marijuana survey to gauge Port Hardy residents’ reactions. They’ve also set up a cannabis advisory committee. We are waiting for survey results to kick in, but for now we’re left twiddling our thumbs.

The central question is this – are residents in favor of a local marijuana dispensary? If so, what are the limits of consumption? Will it be similar to a bar, where residents can openly smoke in the shop? Will we have similar laws to public intoxication?

Licensed bars legally allow patrons to drink outside, say, on the business’ patio so long as they are still on the property.

If we’re following the same sort of regulations for a marijuana establishment, will customers be allowed to consume cannabis while still standing on its property? These are the sort of questions that Mayor and Council are of course tackling.

Following that, will there be regulations for where a dispensary is located in town? Some business owners might very well not like the idea of running a store next to a dispensary. Of course that doesn’t mean others wouldn’t mind it, but there is still stigma around having a dispensary in the neighbourhood.

Some owners fear that having a dispensary close nearby will slow down sales; there is also worry that it might drive up property crime.

There is even debate about who will be legally allowed to start and run a dispensary. And this isn’t bringing up the issue of whether it will become more accessible to youth either.

In any case, opening a local dispensary will have all sorts of unforeseen socio-economic impacts. We simply cannot anticipate every consequence – no matter how much community input there is to guide local policy and regulations.

In my opinion, we don’t need a dispensary at all. If the move toward legalized marijuana is legitimate, then what’s the need for a dispensary? Really, legalizing the sale and consumption of cannabis is like saying it’s the same as any other medical drug out there.

It’s not farfetched to suggest marijuana should be offered like any other legal drug – bought and sold in a pharmacy. Why bother with the extra, unnecessary costs of opening and running a dispensary; not to mention the burden of enforcing cannabis regulations? It has too many unexpected risks with little payoff. We’ll already have a perfectly functioning dispensary but it doesn’t go by that name.

Thomas Kervin is a recent political science alumnus from Simon Fraser University. He was born and raised in Port Hardy. He’s also a First Nations person who wants to address issues facing Indigenous communities today.

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