As part of its current project of regulating the city’s medical cannabis dispensaries, Victoria City Hall hosted an open house last night that brought together the community for a discussion on marijuana.

“Tonight is a town hall meeting so we can give you some information and hear your input on proposed regulations for medical marijauana related businesses in Victoria,” said mayor Lisa Helps as she opened the meeting.

City policy analyst Shannon Craig said the purpose of the proposed regulations are to reduce the “community impacts” of dispensaries while still allowing patients access to medical cannabis.

The city had originally allowed for five-minutes for each speaker, but, an outpouring of interest from the public limited time to each speaker to three-minutes, resulting in a meeting that still ran over two hours.

Lawyer and advocate Kirk Tousaw spoke at the podium, commending the city for taking the step of legitimizing the near 30 cannabis operations currently doing business in Victoria

“I think it’s an important step, a necessary step and also a long overdue step,” said Tousaw.

But Tousaw took issue with several points in the proposed bylaws, including the ban on edible products.

“It’s a mistake that will harm patients in this community, will take away people’s quality of life, and will actually have the exact opposite effect than it’s intended,” said Tousaw.

“If you send someone who has no experience making these products home with cannabis oil and ask them to make their own cookies, you’re going to increase the chances of ingesting too much, you’re going to increase the chances that people who shouldn’t be accessing it are accessing it, and you’re going to actually cause the kind of harms that you’re seeking to prevent.”

Tousaw said there are other options to limit access while still allowing the sale of edible products, including packaging requirements.

Brandon Wright the general manager of Baked Edibles, a commercial bakery that supplies dispensaries across the island, said edibles’ ease of dosage measurement makes the products extremely safe for consumption.

“When we have this oil we know exactly what’s in it, this oil is then measured precisely and baked into large batches,” Wright said. “At the end of cooking, each batch is then sent off for testing, so at the end of each batch we know exactly what’s in all of our products.”

Tousaw, who said he represented several dispensaries in the city as well as others across the country, said the 200 metre restriction was also a mistake.

“If you shut them down because of a declustering situation you’re going to drive patients away from a comfortable environment,” he said. “You’re going to put their convenience and their quality of life beneath some arbitrary cut off point.”

Vancouver Island Compassion Society board of directors volunteer member Chris Marks said with many of the society’s members having limited mobility, he would like to see a provision in the city’s bylaws that allowed for home delivery for patients unable to physically visit a dispensary.

“Those are often the clients who need it the most, who can’t get out to the clubs,” said Marks.

Insurance broker Isaac Greenwood spoke at the meeting, saying that officials should take caution when shutting down dispensaries going forward or risk a return to black market street sales.

“I think insurability is definitely a litmus-test as to who should be honoured with the privileged of having a licensed dispensary in the city of Victoria.

Tousaw also said the city’s proposed ban on vapour lounges within dispensaries isn’t in the best interest of patients either.

“If people have proper air-filtration systems there’s no reason to ban on site consumption,” he said.

James Whitehead, owner and operator of Gorge Cannabis Dispensary thanked police and council for providing a climate where medical dispensaries are currently able operate safely and freely in the city, but asked that officials retool their regulations to allow for the actual production and distribution on cannabis, not just its sale.

“If your core concern is public health and safety, which is what i see this discussion about, I feel that these legislations are window dressing on a home that doesn’t have a foundation yet,” said Whitehead. “Until you can allow myself and others who are involved in the provision of cannabis services to daylight their supply chain and to apply effective controls to that supply chain … really this is all a purposeless discussion.”

Craig said the city’s next steps include reviewing the feedback received at the meeting and developing final recommendations to city council around the proposed regulations by April, with an expected rollout of the new bylaws later in May.

Those unable to attend the meeting are still about to provide their input through an online survey, hosted by the City of Victoria, open until Mar. 4.