Richmond, B.C., pushes back against sale of legal cannabis

[Image credit: Vancouver Sun]

At least one Vancouver suburb wants to explore outlawing retail sales of cannabis within its city limits, even after the drug is legalized next year.

Richmond city council’s opposition to recreational cannabis underscores the balance British Columbia is trying to achieve with its coming rules as it assures communities there will not be a provincewide, one-size-fits-all approach to selling legal sales of the substance. The NDP government has established a 19-member committee of municipal politicians and bureaucrats to discuss a host of controversial issues surrounding legalization with the province, but Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said on Tuesday his community is opposed to the sale and use of recreational cannabis. Richmond will await the new provincial rules – expected next spring – before exploring its options, he said.

“We believe, reflecting on community values here in the city of Richmond, there’s a considerable number of people who would support an outright ban,” said Mr. Brodie, whose council voted unanimously on Monday to send letters to British Columbia and the federal government signalling its opposition to legalization.

So far, British Columbia is the lone province to state that it would embrace a cannabis retail system involving a mix of different models once the drug is legalized next summer. The provincial government has said Vancouver’s system of independent cannabis shops – implemented under a bylaw passed two years ago – will not work for every community. But it is unclear whether cities such as Richmond would be allowed to go “dry” and outlaw the sale of cannabis within their boundaries.

Mike Farnworth, B.C.’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, said it is too early in the consultation process to determine whether individual communities will be allowed to ban retail sales of the drug.

“I could quite easily see a [provincial] model where some communities may well have dispensaries and other communities don’t or you could well have government liquor stores, private liquor stores or other variations of retail operations could exist,” he told The Globe and Mail on Oct. 20. “What we want is to put in place a regime that makes people go, ‘Okay, this makes sense, it works.'”

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