History of Medical Cannabis in Nelson
With the increasing number of cannabis dispensaries that were recently opening in Nelson, Council began considering options on how to best manage cannabis dispensaries that had opened, or may open, in advance of cannabis regulations being implemented by the federal and provincial governments. As a temporary solution, Council directed staff to develop regulations for the operation of dispensaries based on best practices of other municipalities in British Columbia that had also chosen to regulate rather than close down the dispensaries.
In March 2017, Council approved a zoning amendment for ‘Marijuana Operations’ identifying a 300-metre separation distance east-west and 150 metres north-south. In addition, they identified six outlets as the maximum number to be allowed in the city.
Also in March, Council approved the Medical Cannabis Business Licence Bylaw. The bylaw identified a number of requirements which were intended to minimize any adverse effects that the operation of such businesses may have on the safety, health and well-being of the community. The requirements were developed to take into consideration the local context, public feedback, and best practices of other communities.
Once Council approved the business licence and zoning amendments, those who wanted to operate a licensed medical cannabis dispensary needed to apply for a business licence, and the applications had to be brought forward to Council for approval. Furthermore, if an applicant did not meet the separation distance, they would need to apply for a temporary use permit after they became an approved applicant.
Council approved five business licences in May 2017 and an additional business licence in June, for a total of six business licences. In August 2017, five temporary use permits were approved for businesses that did not meet the separation distance. There are currently six medical cannabis dispensaries operating in Nelson with a business licence; however, these outlets remain illegal.
Dispensaries that operate after legalization must have a licence from the Province, and must purchase their cannabis through the provincial government cannabis distribution system. The federal government has reconfirmed recently that with legalization, the retail sale of medical cannabis will remain illegal and that the only legal way to purchase medical cannabis is by mail-order.