Abbotsford residents to get say on whether four pot stores is right amount to start

City to solicit feedback on proposed rules to govern legal marijuana stores

City staff have recommended limiting the number of legal marijuana stores in Abbotsford to just four when such businesses are first allowed to open, but that number could change depending on feedback from the public.

On Monday, staff gave council a preview of plans to create a framework to regulate marijuana sales in the city. They will now take those ideas to the public before returning with an actual policy that council can vote on this fall. That means Abbotsford isn’t likely to see any legal marijuana stores until winter at the earliest.

The draft policies take a deliberately incremental approach, community planning director Mark Neill told council. Staff have identified 13 sites across the city that could be pre-zoned to allow marijuana stores.

After the zoning for those sites – generally strip malls and shopping centres – is adjusted, the city would then start taking in applications from would-be store operators. After a set deadline, staff and council could then compare those applications with one another and approve a pre-determined number of stores.

“The benefit of this approach is that council is able to evaluate and compare the applications, and make a decision on preferred stores for the entire city,” staff write in the report.

Staff also hope to see the stores distributed across the city, rather than concentrated in one area.

First, though, the plans will be put to the public at both open houses and online surveys.

Neill told council that input will shape their final suggested rules. The public will be asked whether they think four stores is too much, too little, or just right, and whether the 13 selected sites are appropriate.

“What we try not to do is create all the material to the point where it’s 100 per cent complete,” he said. “This is not set in stone.”

Council unanimously voted to proceed with the plan.

Coun. Dave Loewen applauded the “measured” approach.

“We only get one chance to do it right and if we do it wrong, it’s more difficult to undo our mistakes,” he said.

As for the many unregulated marijuana stores currently operating, last month B.C.’s public safety minister announced that an enforcement team had begun investigating some illegal locations around the province.

But Mike Farnworth also said that before closing down such stores, the team is informing operators about the new rules.

RELATED: Marijuana stores should be legal, Abbotsford residents tell council

RELATED: Cannabis enforcement unit now checking unlicensed B.C. pot stores


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tolsen@abbynews.com

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