Representatives from the Kootenay Medicine Tree made a plea to Grand Forks city council for bylaws regulating cannabis dispensaries within city limits.
Jim Leslie and Marvin Wyers, two of three directors of the Medicine Tree, gave a presentation to council at Monday’s Committee of the Whole (COTW) asking for regulation and bylaws to be put in place to regulate dispensaries within city limits. The presentation packed the gallery at the regular COTW meeting, with many gallery members there in support of dispensary issues in the city.
In his presentation, Leslie cited the Supreme Court of B.C. decision made on Feb. 14, and noted other cities with dispensary bylaws. Those cities include Squamish and Port Alberni, both of which are patrolled by the RCMP much like Grand Forks.
Leslie said he respects the position of the RCMP as law enforcement, but would like the action to be unnecessary.
“The only thing left in the void left by federal inaction is law enforcement. What we’re looking at is an imperfect situation where a business like ours that behaves properly is in a vacuum and in this context, the interaction with government is left to police. We have a gap, and a serious gap that affects people’s health in real time.”
Leslie cited clauses in various municipal bylaws that might work effectively in Grand Forks, including the costs for cannabis dispensary business licenses, conditions for operations, and security requirements at dispensaries in other cities.
Grand Forks Mayor Frank Konrad said city staff are currently working on a report about the dispensary situation and the feasibility of a dispensary bylaw. That report will be a comprehensive overview of what a dispensary bylaw could look like, and the risks associated. The most important thing for the city, he said, was to make sure the corporation was not assuming any liability.
“In protection of the corporation, if anything were to go awry they will go after the deep pockets which is the corporation,” he said. “This is why we are getting a staff report, so we are sure before anything happens in regard to bylaws.”
Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Doug Allin also suggested the report and any potential bylaw be sent to the Municipal Insurance Corporation for review before it is enacted.
Several councillors spoke in support of medicinal cannabis, including Councillor Colleen Ross.
“I know many seniors – we are a seniors’ community and an increasing number are choosing to use marijuana,” Ross said. “I think we look at the bottom line and it is important not to deny people in chronic, debilitating pain their need to access. I want to do the heavy lifting here for compassion reasons.”
Several members of the gallery also spoke in support of legalization and medicinal cannabis, including the owner of Herbivore Cannabis, Teresa Taylor. She noted a petition circling online at her store calling for the city to create a dispensary bylaw. Taylor said the petition currently has over 200 signatures.
RCMP Sergeant Jim Fenske was also in attendance at the meeting, and was questioned by residents as to why dispensaries were visited at all.
“There is a lot of misconception and rumour about how these raids were done. Mr. Leslie and I have spoken and he is happy with how this was done. We did not go to take enforcement action but we have no choice when we see marijuana to seize it,” he said. “We are not pursuing charges or making arrests.”
When questioned by a member of the gallery, Konrad declined to give a personal opinion on the issue of medicinal cannabis, citing his position as CEO of a corporation representing thousands of residents.
“I don’t have a position. The bottom line is I am the CEO of this corporation, and I need to look out for the wellbeing of this corporation. I represent all of you, and that is the only statement I can make,” he said. “We are trying, and not putting this on a shelf somewhere; we know it needs to be addressed [but] I represent too large a community and there is a lot at stake.”
After receiving the presentation, Councillor Neil Krog put forward a motion asking to receive the staff report back on an “expedient” timeline of 30 days. Council voted in favour of the motion.