Tangled rules, jurisdictions to blame for pot shop denial

“As of late I have had numerous compassionate marijuana groups inquiring to rent my store front and open a dispensary,” McKernan said.

Valley businessman Bob McKernan has commercial store space to rent “with excellent TCH exposure” in Area D (Cowichan Bay).

McKernan even has potential tenants. The problem is the Cowichan Valley Regional District, he says, won’t permit those tenants to open up shop.

“As of late I have had numerous compassionate marijuana groups inquiring to rent my store front and open a dispensary,” McKernan said. “My zoning includes agricultural and horticultural supply sales/health studio/personal service and just plain retail sales,” he said. “I thought I had it covered… no, not so.”

CVRD vice chair Lori Iannidinardo, the director for Cowichan Bay, explained that when they were working on the official community plan for that area, the board knew the marijuana issue was coming down the pipe.

“We did what we could from our level but we are not sure if we’ve covered everything,” Iannidinardo admitted.

And while he isn’t so sure dispensaries are even legal, McKernan still takes issue with the CVRD’s zoning bylaws prohibiting marijuana-related activities.

“Imagine the brazenness of these people to make such a decision in this the 21st Century. Shame on them. I personally find this totally unacceptable and probably unconstitutional,” he said. “Aren’t they the CVRD some kind of special! Just one more step by our local government in their attempt to make time go backwards.”

According to Health Canada, dispensaries are currently illegal Canada-wide.

An inquiry with Health Canada yielded the following response:

“Health Canada does not license organizations such as compassion clubs or dispensaries to possess, produce or distribute marijuana for medical purposes. The only legal means for individuals to access marijuana for medical purposes is via a licenced producer, with the support of their health care practitioner.”

Health Canada’s website went on to say that “Unauthorized activities associated with marijuana are considered to be criminal offences and are subject to the penalties set out in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.”

The CVRD and other local governments have worked on their bylaws in order to avoid situations like in Vancouver and Victoria where pot distribution isn’t technically legal but local bylaws don’t prohibit it so dispensaries have been popping up.

Federal legislation has complicated matters, as Ottawa waffles on the issue.

“That’s the whole problem everybody is having with this is it’s not legal,” Iannidinardo said. “It’s entirely totally confusing and the feds need to get their act together.”

It’s an issue that needs to be made more clear, and the sooner the better Iannidinardo added.