Port Moody will begin the process of preparing bylaw language and guidelines that would allow retail cannabis stores to operate in the city once the sale and recreational use of cannabis is legal in Canada on Oct. 17.
But the road ahead before any such stores actually open could be divisive after city council narrowly passed a motion at its meeting last Tuesday to allow that process to proceed.
Three councillors, Zoe Royer, Barbara Junker and Diana Dilworth, voted against the motion.
Royer recommended an outright prohibition of retail cannabis stores in the city while Junker and Dilworth said it was too soon to move forward.
“Why don’t we step back and have a broader discussion with our community?” Dilworth said, adding any decision that is made about allowing cannabis sales in the city would be “significant and historic.”
But Mayor Mike Clay said beginning the process of regulating cannabis sales in the city is the start of just such a discussion.
“Without something, it’s more difficult to have that conversation,” he said, as he voted to support the motion to move forward, along with councillors Meghan Lahti, Rob Vagramov and Hunter Madsen.
In a report prepared for council, Robyn MacLeod, Port Moody’s manager of building, bylaw and licensing, said the city could handle the regulation and licensing of retail cannabis stores similar to the way liquor stores are governed. Prospective cannabis retailers would have to apply for a rezoning of the property where they hope to open after meeting certain guidelines, such as its location in relation to schools. The rezoning application would then be subject to public hearing.
“Each application would be considered separately,” MacLeod told council.
Vagramov said the city can glean some important lessons from states in the United States where the use and sale of cannabis has been legalized.
“There’s a future here for this industry,” Vagramov said. “I think it’s great for our country.”