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Marijuana dispensaries still hinge on federal government legalization

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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – City staff with Fort St. John submitted a report to City Council for their information when it comes to marijuana dispensaries in Fort St. John.

The City says that they have denied an application they received for a Business License for a marijuana dispensary.

“A number of inquiries have been received by staff for the opportunity to establish a retail marijuana dispensary in the community. An application for a Business License for a retail marijuana dispensary was recently denied by the city.”

The City points to the fact that Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government have said they will legalize marijuana in Canada. Although that hasn’t happened yet, it has garnered interest in the area.

The operation of a medical marihuana retail dispensary is currently not allowed under the Federal law (Criminal Code, Controlled Drugs and Substances Act).

“Medical Marihuana Production Facilities are allowed under Federal law and that is reflected in the City’s Zoning Bylaw. Currently they are not a permitted use in any zone within the City.”

The City says that many different communities across B.C. and Canada are taking different approaches to the situation and that they will work with the RCMP as well.

“It is noted that municipalities across BC and Canada are taking different approaches and making independent decisions to issue or refuse business licenses for medical marijuana retail dispensaries, recognizing that it is not allowed within the criminal law.

BC case law supports municipalities in their decision to uphold their choice to refuse business licenses for medical marijuana retail dispensaries. The RCMP has a duty to uphold the law in BC and Canada, and decide what appropriate actions are to be made based on the law and in partnership with City, should the City choose to enforce relevant City bylaws. The RCMP is supportive of receiving information regarding the matter.”

If federal rules change when it comes to marijuana, the City says they will need to conduct more research to see how it fits in with City zoning.

“Local Governments have the ability to regulate (i.e. permit, prohibit) uses, but not businesses. If Federal legislation changes in the future, further research will be required to understand the kinds of amendments to the City’s zoning that need to be made to align with Federal law.

Currently business license applications for businesses like medical marihuana retail dispensaries, and compassion clubs that involve dispensing of marijuana are currently not allowed because it is against the Criminal Code.”

Staff are planning to prepare a Zoning Amendment to propose a definition for marijuana operations for Council’s consideration. The intent will be to provide options for the City to regulate related uses under the current legislation.

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