Editorial: Proposed pot buffer makes no sense for a small town like Lake Cowichan

We’re not going to stop children and teens from knowing that marijuana exists.

The proposed buffer zone around schools where cannabis shops would not be allowed to locate, as requested by the Cowichan Valley School District and adopted by the Municipality of North Cowichan, is more than faintly ridiculous.

The school district has reaffirmed its request to the area’s municipalities that they not allow cannabis shops within 600 metres of a school. That’s more than half a kilometre.

Councillor Tim McGonigle of the Town of Lake Cowichan quite rightly immediately pointed out how unworkable a zone of that size would actually be for small communities. In effect, it would eliminate the possibility of a marijuana shop within the Town of Lake Cowichan. We doubt the town would want to take such a stance against a legal, potentially viable addition to the business community.

We’re not sure where the school district came up with the 600 metre number, but it seems ill-considered. In small communities like Lake Cowichan such a zone would cover the entirety of the business area. The Municipality of North Cowichan just turned down a proposed pot shop in Chemainus because of its 600 metre policy, which also includes any places where children congregate. It’s absurd.

The school district and municipality’s reasoning is obviously to try to protect students. We don’t really agree with the implicit presupposition that marijuana is bad (though smoking anything — and this includes vaping — is certainly bad for you. And taking too much of any drug over a long term is a poor decision without an underlying medical condition) , however it is reasonable to wish to site pot shops away from people who are not allowed to buy it anyway. Legalization has, after all, come with the same caveat as alcohol. One must be 19 to purchase it. One would think a potential pot shop operator would consider where their customer base is before opening.

However, it seems unreasonable to expect cannabis shops to be more restricted than liquor stores.

Lake Cowichan town council may want to think about including a specific distance from schools in their criteria when they consider pot shop applications, but they may find it adequate to simply require each application to come before them on an individual basis, as they already must, and decide one at a time if the proposed location is palatable.

We’re not going to stop children and teens from knowing that marijuana exists. They knew about it before it was legal, and banning shops from just about everywhere in town will not change the status quo.

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