Recreational marijuana will be legal next month. (THE NEWS/files)

Maple Ridge moves on plan to allow limited number of pot stores

Legalization in October

Maple Ridge council has accepted staff recommendations and is moving forward with a plan to tweak bylaws to allow recreational marijuana stores within its borders.

Council, at its Tuesday meeting, supported staff preparing zoning changes that would allow retail pot stores in commercial zones, but require at least a kilometre between each one, while none can be closer than 200 metres to a school.

Given such restrictions, only about four or five such stores would be allowed in Maple Ridge.

Coun. Craig Speirs, though, asked that the changes allow for more than one store in the downtown. But that suggestion was voted down.

He said previously that there would be a market for the seniors downtown using marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Coun. Corisa Bell said there should only be one retail pot shop in the core area.

“I don’t think we need more in the downtown.”

She is council liaison for seniors and was surprised by the number of seniors using pot for medical conditions.

“And it’s really helping them and, so, I’m happy to hear that when they tell me that.”

But she said one retail marijuana shop in the downtown would be enough.

“I feel that we’ve been working so hard, for long, to improve our downtown.”

Under rules set out by the province, cities have veto power on whether any marijuana store opens within its borders.

Council heard that currently, the only legal way to obtain medicinal marijuana is with a doctor’s prescription, via mail order, from a federally approved provider.

City planner Diana Hall said that existing medicinal marijuana stores would have to apply for a recreational pot retail licence when legalization takes effect Oct. 17.

“It’s going to be really confusing,” said Mayor Nicole Read.

“I think we should proceed, but I think we should proceed with care and caution,” added Coun. Bob Masse.

It’s expected that staff will return with bylaw changes to allow a council vote by this fall.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities will discuss sharing revenues from recreational marijuana with the province, at its convention next week in Whistler.

Cities are looking for recovery of their costs in policing and enforcing bylaws related to the recreational marijuana, said Coun. Gordy Robson.

If the cities don’t get some share, Maple Ridge council could reconsider its plans for recreational pot, he added.

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