The City of Victoria has begun the process of regulating medical cannabis dispensaries, gathering public feedback over the next several weeks before any system is put in place.

On its website, the city said “the purpose of the regulations is to reduce community impacts of these businesses, while maintaining access to medical marijuana,” attempting to put a handle on the estimated 30 shops currently operating in Victoria.

After a 2015 survey showed public support for dispensary regulation was over 80 per cent, the city said it is looking at implementing rules for businesses such as an age restriction of 19, advertising limits, odour control and location of dispensaries.

Mayor Lisa Helps said the city can’t wait for the federal government to come up with their own legalization program and steps need to be taken now.

“Dispensaries are popping up way too quickly and without any regulation,” Helps said. “It’s causing instability. It’s also not a level playing field; it’s not fair for our other businesses.”

Victoria has broken down cannabis operations into three categories; storefront medical marijuana retailers, including non-profit compassion clubs and for-profit businesses; medical marijuana-related businesses, which include paraphernalia shops, medical marijuana consulting services, storefront medical marijuana retailers and medical marijuana bakeries or production facilities; and businesses that keep marijuana on the premises, which include bakeries and other production facilities and storefront medical marijuana retailers.

The proposed regulations look similar to the City of Vancouver’s system, with several distinctions, including a smaller buffer zone of 200 metres (compared to Vancouver’s 300 metres) between dispensaries and schools or community centres and a licensing fee that won’t be higher than $5,000 (Vancouver has charged up to $30,000 for dispensaries to receive a license).

The city is collecting feedback on the plan at an open house with the mayor and council on Feb. 22, as well as an online survey.