North Cowichan now has a framework in place when considering applications for retail marijuana stores.
At its meeting on Jan. 16, council established criteria that the municipality will use when considering cannabis sales applications, and directed staff to begin processing rezoning applications for cannabis retail sales using the new criteria immediately.
The newly adopted policy includes the requirement that retail pot stores in North Cowichan must be located on a major road and be located on land already zoned for commercial uses.
The pot shops must be a minimum of 600 metres from schools, playgrounds and places where children and youth gather, and at least 300 metres from another retail cannabis location.
All applicants for pot stores are also required to hold an information meeting to provide residents and property owners within 60 metres of where they are applying to set up their store the chance to voice their thoughts and opinions, and a summary of the feedback from the meeting must be given to the municipality.
Under the new guidelines, the municipality will refer all retail cannabis sales applications to the Cowichan Valley school district and the RCMP for up to 30 days to ensure that their comments are considered in council’s decision.
As well, the municipality will not accept applications for proposals that are not associated with an application that has been accepted for consideration by the province’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Board.
Applications for pot shops in B.C. must first be approved by the province, which reviews them and does background checks, before local governments can consider them.
“Council is hearing from many residents that want local options for purchasing cannabis,” said Mayor Al Siebring.
“Under the provincial framework, the municipality’s role is to consider land-use applications for retail cannabis, and this council policy establishes criteria we will use in doing so, such as ideal siting of stores and setbacks from other uses.”
To date, North Cowichan has received six site-specific rezoning applications for retail pot shops, including one that has received a licence referral from the province to set up shop.
The municipality had advised the LCRB that this licence referral will receive a response once council has determined North Cowichan’s policy framework, which has now been finalized.
North Cowichan’s previous council changed its zoning bylaw last summer to prohibit the sale, distribution or trade of cannabis in the municipality.
As a result, the municipality now requires that applicants for a retail pot shop must first apply to rezone a particular property, thereby ensuring there is a process for public input and council control over the location and number of stores.