To prepare for the legalization of marijuana next month, City of Vernon staff have brought forward draft amendments to its zoning bylaw.
The tweaks would allow non-medical cannabis sales as a permitted primary use in 13 commercial zoning districts.
With cannabis stores popping up all around the province in the last couple of years, many municipalities have closed a lot of the stores with regulations, though some would be grandfathered, meaning they could stay where they are to open and sell cannabis until the rules change this year.
In Vernon, council regulates every single land use within the city.
“Council has the ability through its zoning bylaw to say ‘this is where the community wants cannabis shops and where they don’t,” said Kim Flick, the city’s director of community infrastructure and development.
The city came up in November 2017 with temporary-use permits for its existing shops before having any information as to how the province was going to regulate the sale or supply of cannabis once the Cannabis Act took effect this year.
“We now know that temporary use permits would allow a shop to remain open but it can only sell product purchased through the province, and they can’t purchase product through the province unless you have a provincial licence, and you can’t get a provincial licence without municipal government supporting a specific application,” said Flick. “We can’t support specific applications until we regulate cannabis in the zoning bylaw.”
As of Oct. 17, when cannabis becomes legal, shops in Vernon that are remaining open will have no product to sell because they don’t have a licence from the province to sell or purchase cannabis.
There are 11 existing cannabis shops in Vernon and none, said Flick, have applied for a provincial licence.
The draft amendments would also permit cannabis cultivation facilities (medical, non-medical, micro cultivation, hemp and nurseries) in the A1-Agricultural zone within the Agricultural Land Reserve with any facility being a minimum 50 metres away from any property where residential is the principal use.
“I’d like to see that moved back to 150 metres,” said Coun. Scott Anderson, who told a story of former elderly neighbours who lived beside such a facility who “couldn’t go outdoors in the flowering season because the odour was so bad.”
Cannabis processing, microprocessing, analytical testing and research would be permitted in the light industrial and business park zoning districts.
Changes to the city’s business licence and fees and charges bylaws to accommodate cannabis cultivation, processing, testing and research have also been recommended.
A public hearing for the proposed bylaw amendments would likely be held in late November, with Vernon’s new council.