The Town of Osoyoos will allow the sale of marijuana in retail outlets when recreational cannabis becomes legal across Canada this October.
But Osoyoos Council also hopes to keep provincially operated cannabis stores — similar to provincial liquor stores — out of the community.
And interested vendors should be prepared to pay “substantial” fees to set up shop.
At its regular meeting Tuesday afternoon, Council started putting “tick marks” next to numerous questions its administrative team wanted answered as the Town ponders the sales and use of cannabis products in the community.
“We’re kind of getting our feet wet today and looking at all the issues,” said Mayor Sue McKortoff after Council spent more than 40 minutes in a free-ranging discussion that included where retail outlets would be allowed, when the stores can be open and what interested vendors will have to pay in application and licensing fees.
Early in the discussion, Council determined to allow retail sales in the community and followed up that decision with another to close the door on government-operated outlets.
“I see this industry as creating opportunities for people in our community and people who come to our community,” said Coun. Mike Campol before asking for a vote. “I’m not very keen on the government coming in and opening businesses.”
He added the province’s capacity to set up outlets without paying local business licencing was an additional frustration — especially as Council has heard nothing about shared tax revenues to cover local operating costs.
“We have an opportunity to charge a fair amount for a business licence to offset some bylaw and policing costs,” said Coun. Campol.
The discussion followed a report from the Town’s Director of Planning and Development Services seeking direction of how to handle cannabis sales.
“Town staff will benefit from clear direction from Council in order to respond to the numerous inquiries regarding the possibility of establishing recreational cannabis retail stores in Osoyoos,” explained Gina MacKay.
“Furthermore, direction and decision is needed from Council in order to implement new federal and provincial legislation.”
Although the sale and use of marijuana is expected to be legal as of October 17, the sale of cannabis is currently prohibited under the Town’s Zoning Bylaw.
“Until Council decides on whether to allow retail cannabis dispensaries in Osoyoos, enforcement action will be taken on any person or company that attempt(s) to open a retail cannabis business in Osoyoos ahead of it being legalized,” Ms. MacKay said.
Council asked for additional information on zoning options, licencing fees and restrictive distances from schools and playgrounds and potentially town parks and green spaces.
That “buffer” — as Coun. CJ Rhodes called it — enjoyed extended conversation, Council asking for information more appropriate for a small lakeside community and noting a typical 300-metre zone would exclude much of the downtown core.
“It seems to me that licensing fees is one thing that we want to talk about and we also want to talk about zoning vs the site-specific zoning,” said Mayor Sue McKortoff. “Is it possible to have that information by the next meeting?”
Administration said it would return with answers by the next scheduled meeting July 16.
Osoyoos Council is also grappling with the question of how to fund the expected increased municipal expenses accompanying legal cannabis sales in the community and how to provide for the public consumption of marijuana, especially on community beaches and downtown.
“I think this simplifies a lot of the process we as Council will have to go through to answer these questions,” said Coun. Jim King of materials delivered by administration.
But CAO Barry Romanko said Council shouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to get the job done.
“There really is no hurry here,” he said. “October 17 will come, but that’s not to say that doors have to be open on October 17.
“Ensuring all areas (of discussion) have been touched is extremely important.”