Castlegar council weeds out marijuana dispensaries

After public hearing where no one voiced an opinion, council voted to amend zoning bylaw to prohibit dispensaries.

Castlegar council and staff held a public hearing Monday evening regarding two proposed zoning amendments. Only a handful of residents attended the meeting.

The first amendment adds specific wording to the zoning bylaw to prohibit marijuana dispensaries in the city of Castlegar. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that no dispensaries open until such a time as they are legalized by the federal government and to then enable the city to regulate the locations of such businesses through zoning rules.

City staff explained that the introduction of this measure was based on legal advice and that without this interim measure, the city would be unable to control things such as the location of dispensaries once they are legalized. “If not defined, a marijuana dispensary is considered a retail use, which could open the door for cases of lawful non-conformance in the future,” explained Castlegar planning technician Shannon Marshall. That would mean that if a dispensary were to set up in Castlegar as a retail business, they could locate next to a school or daycare — anywhere a retail business is allowed.

In his opening remarks, Mayor Lawrence Chernoff noted, “The main function of council members this evening is to listen to the views of the public. It is not the function of council at this public hearing to debate the merits of the proposed bylaw with individual citizens.” However, not one person present spoke when the public was asked for input. Only one letter was submitted, and it was read aloud for the record. Comments from the planning advisory committee and staff responses to those comments were also read.

The amendment defines a marijuana dispensary as a business or other operation involving the sale, barter, distribution or dispensing of cannabis, marijuana or any products containing or derived from cannabis or marijuana, or the advertising or offering of such items for sale, barter, distribution or dispensing.

The second amendment removed maximum heights for hedges, except for areas with safety concerns such as sight triangles at intersections.

Council passed both amendments during the regularly scheduled council meeting that took place after the public hearing.