Nanaimo City Council Votes to Prepare Report on Dispensary Regulation

Medical cannabis proponents in Nanaimo got surprising good news last night at a city council meeting, when councillors unanimously voted to create a staff report on regulating dispensaries in the city.

Phoenix Pain Management Society operator Matthew O’Donnell presented to council at the meeting and said he had been only looking to provide information to the group about the medical patients suffering from dispensary raids in the city.

“I really tried to drive that point to council and then they did something we did not expect them to do, they passed the motion that we requested to produce a staff report on the business benefits of cannabis dispensaries in Nanaimo and how they’re going to regulate them,” O’Donnell said. “It was a very pleasant surprise.”

Councillor Gordon Fuller motioned after the presentation to move forward with the report after all of the activity against dispensaries from the police in the city.

“I don’t want to see this council tell the RCMP what to do, they’ve done their job, but how we move forward as a community is important to a lot of people in Nanaimo,” said Fuller.

O’Donnell said he’s aware that a staff report on the topic will take months, and hopes the time will come with a robust amount of research into the issue and include all stakeholders at the table.

“We’re dealing with regulations, laws, zoning, there’s a lot of interested parties involved — us in the cannabis community, RCMP, the community at large — there’s a lot of concerns and it’s a very complicated issue,” O’Donnell said. “So we want our government to take the proper steps and as long as they need to make sure that this is all ironed out.”

Councillor Wendy Pratt said the dispensaries touch a number of people living in Nanaimo and the city needs to face that fact as the federal government moves forward with legalization.

“We’re not sure when it’s going to happen or what it’s going to look like when it does happen,” said Pratt. “I really do believe that it’s something we need to get a handle on, one way or another.”

O’Donnell said he’s happy to see support from the municipal government and hope it extends to the provincial and federal levels.

“We feel that all three levels of government aren’t really showing a sense of urgency to this matter,” said O’Donnell. “Meanwhile, on the front lines, we have 17 people getting arrested and being treated as criminals when really, these are medical cannabis patients.”

Mayor Bill McKay also revealed at the meeting that a joint letter is being penned by Victoria mayor Lisa Helps to be sent to prime minister Justin Trudeau requesting timelines on his government’s plan to regulate recreational cannabis.

McKay said if the letter receives council’s blessing, it will include signatures from the mayors of Victoria, Nanaimo and Vancouver.

O’Donnell was excited by the idea of further information coming from the federal letter.

“We’re looking for direction, but, in fairness, the RCMP are also looking for direction,” O’Donnell said. “We need to start putting attention on the elected officials who do not have a sense of urgency while people are being arrested.”

“People are speculating, ‘this could take three months, this could take one year, this could take three years,’ let’s get some timelines out on the table – we have a majority government, they can push forward anything they want.”