Discussion around local dispensary regulations going to public hearing

Kamloops city council has voted to move the discussion around dispensaries to a public hearing so the community can weigh in on suggested bylaw amendments.

City staff have recommended several bylaw amendments to crack down on illegal pot shops and lay the groundwork to effectively manage them prior to and after cannabis has been decriminalized in July 2018.

That includes excluding dispensaries from catch-all definitions in the business license and regulation bylaw and zoning bylaw and adding specific definitions for cannabis-related businesses; adding a business license category for “commercial landlord”; and increasing fines for operating without a business license from a flat rate of $200 to fees up to $10,000.

The City of Kamloops has not yet adopted zoning regulations for dispensaries, and a major concern is the locations of unlicensed pot shops.

While pot shops have operated in a generally accepted grey zone, city staff want to avoid a situation in which unlicensed dispensaries are able to establish themselves in the absence of zoning regulations and then benefit from non-conforming status when zoning is updated.

“The problem will be, with the existing dispensaries, they won’t follow under municipal regulations, the provincial — because they would be considered non-conforming, existing, they wouldn’t be regulated the same. It’s not coming from a source that’s proven and, I guess, approved and they wouldn’t follow any changes in regulations that would come,” said development and engineering services director Marvin Kwiatkowski.

Coun. Arjuhn Singh suggested at Tuesday’s council meeting that staff consider the avenue of temporary use permits as a means of licensing dispensaries in the meantime.

But Kwiatowski raised major concerns around that option, saying the city could be opening itself up to liabilities because the operations aren’t yet legal. He also referenced the case in Penticton, where the city allowed TUPs

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