Despite federal legislation allowing individuals in Canada to legally purchase and consume recreational cannabis as of October 2018, the municipality of View Royal currently prohibits cannabis production, distribution, sales, and home growing.
But according to Mayor David Screech, the municipality is looking to license cannabis retailers by the end of the year. On January 24th, View Royal held a public open house on recreational cannabis that garnered little interest—fewer than 20 community members attended.
Regardless, the council maintains a list of interested individuals and retailers who want to be kept involved in the decision-making process surrounding cannabis. The goal: an enforceable system that works with the close-knit community while providing secure opportunities to retailers.
Screech notes that there are pros and cons of municipalities dictating their own regulations. On one hand, upper levels of government can’t know what will work best for each community. On the other, it can be tougher to share a police department when the bylaws change from town to town.
For example, Victoria has had to work on updating its 2016 Cannabis-Related Business Regulation Act in light of the CCLA. It was also the first municipality in the CRD to begin regulating dispensaries before federal and provincial regulations were passed.
In contrast, Saanich amended its zoning bylaw in June of 2018 to completely prohibit cannabis retailers.
While he’s disappointed in the lack of public involvement, Screech is a proponent of View Royal’s careful, community-oriented process. He sees regulations being implemented by the fall, with retailers hopefully not too far behind: “We want to make sure we do it right.”
Recreational Cannabis: Who Decides What?
Canada legalized recreational (non-medical) cannabis by passing the Cannabis Act on October 17, 2018. However, the federal government doesn’t make all of the decisions when it comes to regulating the industry. Here’s a breakdown:
The federal legal age for purchase/use of recreational cannabis is 18 unless a provincial government decides otherwise. Anyone of legal age can possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis or the equivalent (i.e. 150 grams of fresh cannabis, 450 grams of edibles, etc.), as well as buy dried or fresh cannabis or cannabis oil from provincially-licensed retailers. In addition, households are allowed to possess a maximum of four non-medical cannabis plants.
The federal government also regulates:
- cannabis growers/manufacturers
- serving sizes/potency/types of cannabis permitted for sale
Provinces and territories are responsible for implementing systems that enforce federal regulations. They decide where stores can be located and how these stores have to operate. In addition, they are permitted to:
- increase the minimum legal age
- restrict where cannabis is used in public
- lower possession limits
- set additional requirements around individuals growing cannabis
British Columbia’s Cannabis Control and Licensing Act (CCLA) increases the legal age to 19, which matches the legal age for alcohol and tobacco in the province.
It explicitly prohibits smoking/vaping cannabis in certain areas like school properties and in vehicles. BC’s regulations around possession limits and plants per household match the federal ones.
Municipalities are mainly responsible for zoning and business licensing, as well as safety and regulation enforcement. They’re entrusted with making decisions that will best suit their communities and can create their own bylaws that restrict cannabis use and distribution.