The City of Victoria released its initial report on dispensary business licenses to council, with a much lower fee for business owners.

Compared to the up to $30,000 charged by Vancouver officials, city staff are recommending a fee to cover the cost of administration around the new businesses — around $4,000 to $5,000. The fees are expected to cover hiring one new staff person to work with dispensaries in the city. Victoria has also set a 200 m distance requirement between dispensaries and schools, compared to Vancouver‘s 300 m restriction.

Victoria mayor Lisa Helps said the city needs to bring in regulation as soon as possible to deal with the rapidly multiplying amount of dispensaries.

“One of the risks we run is if we do nothing, then more and more dispensaries can keep popping up. And there’s a risk they could become grandfathered when the federal legislation changes and we will have no control over anything,” Helps said. “That’s a worry to me.”

The city is clear in that it will only be regulating the the sale of cannabis paraphernalia or medical advice, the sale of marijuana is a federal issue that Helps hopes the new Liberal government will take control of.

“It shouldn’t be a municipal issue. We’ve got lots of other things to do. I’m happy to have a federal government that’s going to take it seriously and work with municipalities,” Helps said. “But, in the meantime, if we do nothing we’ll just see more dispensaries without any city control.”

With 23 operating dispensaries and a handful planning to open, officials were eager to create a framework around the operations before too many unregulated businesses have opened their doors. With a federal government that has promised to legalize and regulate cannabis, the report pointed out the city will need to accommodate any new legislation that comes from higher levels of government.

“Since the city’s proposed regulations focus exclusively on the operation and location of businesses, rather than the actual sale of marijuana products, it is anticipated that any regulations developed by the city will continue to be relevant and applicable regardless of changes in the federal regulatory scheme,” the report stated.

The city had previously mandated they would postpone self-regulation until receiving correspondence from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but scrapped that plan in favour of the work already done on the project by staff.

The report will go before Victoria City Council Nov. 19, where they will be able to offer feedback, amendments and public consultation on the plan will be scheduled.