A recent survey conducted by the Village of Cache Creek to gauge the public’s thoughts about a proposed Cannabis Regulatory Framework elicited 55 responses, with 87 per cent of respondents in favour of the Village allowing the retail sale of cannabis.
The downtown area was the favoured location for a retail cannabis store, but there was no consensus on the number of stores that should be allowed. There was, however, consensus on the need for a “buffer” between retail cannabis stores and amenities such as schools, parks, and community halls, with 82 per cent in favour of the idea.
Those taking the survey were asked to name their top three concerns regarding cannabis legislation being implemented in the Village. While many people indicated they had no concerns, those who did cited youth access to cannabis, public smoking and vaping of cannabis, the location of cannabis stores, and the impact on public health as their top concerns.
When it comes to production, 69 per cent of the respondents were in favour of cannabis production on all scales within the Village. Buffers between cultivation sites and daycares and youth facilities, residential areas, and community parks were deemed desirable by many respondents, but one person indicated that they did not want to see the Village’s water supply being used to support cannabis production, as water is a delicate issue with which the Village has had issues in the past.
Some comments — both on the survey and on Facebook — related to an existing cannabis production facility in the Village, particularly to the nuisance odours being produced and to a perceived lack of security at the site. However, most individuals who expressed concern about the existing operation indicated they would be comfortable with fully licensed operations in the Village provided they met all legislative requirements.
Thirteen local businesses were cold-called and asked if they would do phone interviews, and six agreed. All were in favour of retail cannabis sales in the Village, and had no strong opinions about where such a store or stores should be located. New or more jobs in the Village, an increase to the local tax base, and “filling in” some of the vacant spaces and buildings in Cache Creek were identified as opportunities, while concerns included odours produced by cannabis production, traffic created by cannabis stores, and having too many young people hanging around a cannabis store.
Cache Creek CAO Martin Dalsin says that he was very pleased with what he calls an “excellent” response to the survey: “We thought that if we were lucky we might get 50 people [responding].” He adds that he was not really surprised by the overall favourable response.
“Cannabis has been legal for a while, and people are realizing that we aren’t seeing many consequences, and that there are some very beneficial aspects to it. One reason we were doing this was to regulate something that’s now legal across Canada. Even before we started the process we were getting inquiries. At least once every two or three months we get people asking ‘Are you ready for cannabis sales yet?’”
Dalsin was also not surprised regarding the top concerns identified in the survey responses. “They’re the concerns we hear about and that council hears about.”
The regulation of cannabis consumption was something that more than 50 per cent of respondents said did not need to be increased beyond what is already in place for tobacco. “People didn’t say in the survey or comments, but the impression was that it should follow provincial and federal guidelines, and WorkSafeBC guidelines: no hanging out at picnic tables beside the playground and smoking cannabis, keep away from air intakes.”
He says that the odours emanating from cannabis production facilities are regulated federally. “There are very stringent regulations about odours outside a building if it’s being grown indoors, but we don’t have any jurisdiction over anything grown in the Agricultural Land Reserve.
“We’ve been trying to get the Wander Inn [the existing cannabis production facility mentioned above] into compliance, but we’re being very cautious, because we don’t want to jeopardize that. This is new for everyone, and we don’t want to cause more legal problems than solutions. There are hoops to jump through that we’re trying to navigate, and we don’t know about some hoops until we hit them.”
Dalsin says that when it comes to the number of retail cannabis stores that might set up shop, a reasonable approach would be to start with a small number and grow it from there if it doesn’t cause any problems.
“We’re in a place with two highways that meet, and a lot of road traffic that adds to our ‘population’, plus hotels with lots of overnight guests. Competition keeps stores and store fronts looking good, ensures fresh product, etc. Without competition people can run a store as they wish.”
The distance between retail cannabis stores/production facilities and residential areas, schools, parks, playgrounds, and more is something that council will have to decide on before making any bylaw amendments. “The consultants will put together maps showing boundaries — 50 metres, 100 metres — and we’ll look at those and decide what’s realistic.”
A final study report will be put together and presented to council. It will include recommendations about sample bylaws and/or bylaw amendments for council consideration, and Dalsin says there will have to be amendments to the zoning bylaw. There will also be an effect on the fees and charges bylaw, which is on the list to be worked on.
“We may have to call a special December meeting, because we need to have this 100 per cent complete by the end of December. It was funded by Northern Development Initiative Trust, and all work on it must be completed by the end of the calendar year. Amending the zoning bylaw requires a public hearing, and we’ll be telling people when it’s under consideration at council meetings, to give people a chance for public input.”
To read the full survey results, go to https://bit.ly/32v9N8p.