Brett Steeves, at Deacon Blues Dispensary, would consult with city. (THE NEWS/files)

B.C. marijuana moving ahead, awaiting feds to act

Maple Ridge councillor wants city to get ready

The province is trying to get ready for legalized pot and it’s time the City of Maple Ridge did the same, says Coun. Craig Speirs.

The city could do so by drafting zoning regulations that would determine where pot shops can open and by writing up rules that would have to be follwed to get a business licence.

Speirs said once recreational pot is legal, a cluster of retail pot shops could open in the downtown to serve the greater population density, where there are many seniors. Older people, who don’t currently use medicinal marijuana, may start to use it after legalzation, he added, to help with health issues.

“It’s not all young people, at all,” Speirs said. “There will be a large influx of seniors into the market. It’s not all about getting high. It’s not going to be kids rushing into the dispensaries.”

Council, this spring, passed a bylaw banning any such shops from opening, as a pre-emptive measure, before federal law changes, allowing recreational use of pot.

Brett Steeves, of the Hammond Compassion Society, which distributes medicinal marijuana from its Maple Crescent store, does not expect senior governments to shut down dispensaries.

He said previously the city did not consult the dispensaries about the new bylaw, but he is willing to have a conversation about what is happening in the medicinal marijuana industry.

But the industry is in transition, he added. Picture ID and membership is required to ensure purchasers are of age, he said.

The federal government is expected to legalize recreational marijuana use this summer.

To prepare for that, the province, last week, introduced legislation to set out the framework for pot sales in B.C.

Distribution will be controlled by the province, while private and government-run stores both will operate similar to the system already set up for liquor.

Existing medical marijuana dispensaries will be eligible to apply for a retail licence.

Restrictions on smoking marijuana will be the same as those for tobacco and the minimum age for possession of up to 30 grams is 19 years old.

People will be able to grow up to four plants in their homes, although landlords will be able to prohibit growing.

People will be able to choose whether they want to enter a store or not, Speirs added.

“If you’re under 19, you’re not allowed in.”

Speirs said if the federal government doesn’t follow through on passing legalization, people could ignore existing laws.

Legalization doesn’t have to be complicated, he added.

“I just hope that we stop the war because it’s hurting people in a real way.”

People are still getting convicted and getting criminal records because of marijuana possession, he said.

Speirs plans on being pro-active on the issue on council as it counts down the last few months of its tenure before the Oct. 20 election.

Pitt Meadows plans on taking a more cautious approach, said Mayor John Becker.

He wants to wait until legalization has taken place and there’s more certainty about the costs that cities will have to pay for bylaw enforcement or policing and what money in return the cities might get from marijuana taxation revenue.

“We have very limited resources to plunge ahead in the absence of better information and better practices.”

Pitt council said it will maintain its “full prohibition” on all phases of the industry.

“There’s no appetite right now to modify our broad prohibition,” Becker said.

“We are going to watch with great interest how other cities who are prepared to leap ahead of the process, what experiments they try on for size.”

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