UPDATE: Fort St. John City Council has voted in favour of receiving for information the proposed bylaw that would ban cannabis retail operations. This effectively means that Council has voted against adopting the bylaw.
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Fort St. John City Council voted in favour this afternoon to hold a special committee of the whole meeting next week to have a look at staff’s first ideas to dealing with the legalization of recreational cannabis.
During a committee of the whole meeting today, the city’s planning staff gave a presentation on their plan to temporarily ban the sale of cannabis in the City to buy more time to gather the community’s thoughts for how the substance should be regulated. During their presentation, planners Ashley Murphy and Renee Jamurat also posed a number of questions to Council for their thoughts on such topics as setbacks from schools and parks, hours of operation, distance between retail outlets, and total number of outlets.
Speaking first, councillor Byron Stewart asked staff why the City would want to regulate recreational cannabis beyond those regulations that have already been proposed by the provincial and federal governments. Murphy explained that City staff want to get sufficient feedback from residents on cannabis since it is a new use. Stewart also spoke about feedback he’s heard, including the fear and confusion over the use of the word ‘ban,’ likening the fears over the ban to the plot of the movie “Footloose.”
Councillor Trevor Bolin offered comment on how asking for residents’ thoughts could lead to a large and widely varied range of feedback, instead of presenting a draft plan and asking for residents’ feedback on specific parts of that plan. He compared the two different methods of feedback used by the School Board last fall when drawing up the new catchment areas in the City for the new Margaret ‘Ma’ Murray School, saying that the process became more streamlined when the school board asked residents to comment on proposed catchment boundaries.
Overall, councillors expressed their support that there be setbacks for cannabis retail locations from schools, especially after the intense opposition to liquor store that was proposed at the intersection of 112th Ave. and 86th St. Council seemed to be supportive of many of the proposed provincial regulations, including the hours of operation between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. Several councillors also seemed to support concentrating any retail operations in high-traffic areas like the downtown core, and not in residential or low-traffic areas of the City.
During the regular council meeting, councillors voted in favour of scheduling a special committee of the whole meeting on May 22nd to give feedback on staff’s draft plans for recreation cannabis retail operations, with the plan to have the City’s policy finalized by July 1st. The motion has effectively quashed the proposed bylaw to ban recreational cannabis operations in the City, though a vote on that bylaw, as of 3:25 p.m., has not yet occurred.