A public hearing on Nelson’s decision to ban cannabis operations from the town was met with strong opposition from the community, but city council will still go forward with the proposed bylaw changes.
The bylaw changes, first brought forward in early October, will add a definition for ‘Marijuana Operation’ and include it in a list of prohibited uses of land, buildings, and structures in the city.
Despite the outpouring of advice from the community who said that the decision would hurt Nelson medically, financially and legally, as well as some city councillors admitting that they didn’t understand what the bylaw would accomplish, Mayor Deb Kozak said the move is “common sense planning” in the community and it doesn’t mean current dispensaries will be shut down.
“I don’t want people to be distressed,” she said. “Nothing dramatic is going to happen on the street tomorrow.”
The bylaw ultimately passed in a vote of 4–3.
Councillor Val Warmington, who voted against the changes, warned that the bylaws might be too restrictive.
“This gives the impression we’re opposed to something that’s important to our community,” Warmington said. “I would prefer an approach that really does work with the people who are in the industry already.”
With attendees at the meeting vocally upset, many posted their thoughts online, following the decision.
Alan Middlemiss wrote that the vote was extremely disappointing.
“It doesn’t just ban disepensaries … It bans all Cannabis industry (and jobs),” Middlemiss wrote. “It sends a horrible message that Nelson is closed for Cannabis business , doesn’t need the jobs and doesn’t want the tax revenue.”
The town currently has seven dispensaries operating, according to a city staff report. The same document suggests that the proposed amendments would strengthen the city’s ability to enforce its own bylaws and ensure that any new shops that open after the changes would not receive any legal protection.
“This is a betrayal by Mayor Deb Kozak of everyone who voted for her as the voice of tolerance and reason in the last election. What a dumb bylaw they have passed!” wrote cannabis advocate Dana Larsen. “Passing a strict bylaw while saying you don’t intend to enforce it, is bizarre and very poor governance. This is very disappointing.”
The bylaws will go through one more vote at council before being adopted.