Nelson Council Looking at Regulating Dispensaries

A potential fourth dispensary moving into Nelson has mayor Deb Kozak looking at regulating the businesses in her city.

Kozak said strategy discussions on what to do with the currently illegal businesses has begun in Council, but action won’t happen until the federal election in October.

“We’re in a bit of a bind. There are some people in the community who are very in favour of dispensaries, and that reflects the diversity of opinions in our community,” Kozak said. “As with anything, in times of change legislation is often way behind social movements, and it takes time for these things to move forward.”

Community members in Nelson have complained about the new dispensary moving in, and while the space’s landlord Dana Rothkop said the lease has not been signed, neighbours have been told the business could open by Oct. 1.

“There are conversations going on at the police board and on council, and the fact is pot dispensaries are not legal and contravene our bylaws,” Kozak said. “Right now these dispensaries have to decide whether they’re going to operate without a license, and there are fines associated with that.”

According to city manager Kevin Cormack, Nelson has never knowingly approved a business license for dispensaries in town – an application from Canna Clinic was recently rejected – but that hasn’t stopped them from opening in the past.

“In some cases they will say ‘we’re Pacific Apparel Society’ or something like that, and they’ll give no indication that what they’re actually selling doesn’t correspond with what they told us,” said Cormack, who added that the city won’t change its stance unless bylaws are rewritten.

Nelson deputy police chief Paul Burkart said authorities will maintain a close watch on the town’s existing dispensaries.

“We will continue to look at the dispensaries as they come in, or when we get complaints,” Burkart said. “We will follow up with these dispensaries to ensure they’re not doing anything outside of what the courts are allowing them to do. Anything outside those parameters we’ll be enforcing.”

Burkart said  dispensaries aren’t the police‘s highest priority in Nelson, with focus going toward harder, more dangerous drugs, like fentanyl which has been linked to a number of deaths in 2015.

Kozak said Nelson police will be coming to Council with a proposal on how to deal with the local dispensaries, but the town will take direction from the federal government.

“Our wish is for the federal government to set some regulations that will keep us happy and safe. That’s what we want,” said Burkart. “Right now they’ve tightened up, to be honest, and the courts are requiring some caution. So for the moment we’re sitting on our hands.”