Langley Advance Times is offering this weekly feature, call it “At Your Service.”
It’s a forum in which to put questions to our local politicians about key issues facing our community and its residents.
Using a basic question-and-answer format, elected officials will be asked one question at a time and given the opportunity to respond (to a maximum of 250 words) on that said issue.
Alternating between elected groups, Langley City and Langley Township councils, Langley School Board, Langley MLAs, and Langley MPs each have a chance to participate.
The answers provided will be published in their entirety online each Sunday.
Langley City councillors are being asked: Should the City reconsider its stance to permit cannabis stores to operate within municipal limits?
Mayor Val van den Broek
A. I personally believe that we should have stores available like any other legitimate business and help reduce the stigma of cannabis use.
Other communities across Canada have done it using business models suiting their needs, such as where it’s zoned, distance requirement from playgrounds and schools, and distance from other cannabis stores.
The mandatory regulations for alcohol and tobacco sales would also apply.
Various members of the community have voiced their concerns to me that delivery is available and fine for some, but many others have difficulty purchasing and ordering online.
Also, legal cannabis stores get their products from federally licensed producers who follow industry-wide standards including testing for the presence of contaminants such as pesticides, mold, bacteria, and heavy metals before they’re sold.
They are also required to test and confirm THC and CBD amounts.
Cannabis from illegal sources may contain dangerous contaminants and labels might not accurately reflect the THC or CBD content.
When you purchase illegal cannabis products, you may be supporting organized criminal operations that pose dangers to our communities.
Buying cannabis products from legal stores helps strengthen local economies, with the money spent returning to local communities.
Councillor Paul Albrecht
A. Council has considered the opening of retail cannabis stores, but we found that our current bylaw does not support such outlets.
That said, council instructed staff to review our bylaw with this option in mind – as part of our updating of the OCP (Official Community Plan) and zoning bylaw process. This process is expected to be completed in the fall of 2022.
I would expect that council would then be in a position to consider such business applications complete with a clear understanding of the process for perspective business operators of such outlets.
The process would, I expect, include the applicable zoning, licence fees, locations, as well as public hearing process – to name a few – for council and community consideration.
Overall, I am supportive of such an outlet in Langley City.
Councillor Teri James
A. It is my understanding that this topic will be considered as a part of the City’s comprehensive zoning bylaw update process, which is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2022 or early 2023.
I believe we should create a cannabis retail store policy to guide council decision making when cannabis retail rezoning applications are brought to council.
This policy will help determine the number of stores permitted, outline specific criteria, and highlight potential zones for locations.
Councillor Gayle Martin
A. The city’s current zoning bylaw prohibits the use of cannabis retail stores, but this topic will be considered as a part of the zoning bylaw update process, which is planned to be completed by the end of 2022/early 2023.
Councillor Nathan Pachal
A. Langley City is creating a cannabis retail store policy to guide council in making decisions about cannabis retail rezoning applications.
The policy will include the number of stores allowed and locations where cannabis retail stores will be allowed, among other things.
Langley City is currently working on updating our zoning bylaw, and council will consider the policy along with the updated zoning bylaw.
Councillor Rudy Storteboom
A. The legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada is approaching its fourth anniversary.
The cannabis grow and retail sales industry has generated significant interest and speculation. Forecasting around excessive consumption, business profitability, and a tax revenue windfall have all been modified since legalization.
Langley City council has monitored how this market is unfolding with great interest and some concern.
Some municipalities allowed unregulated sales from the start, only to frustrate some merchants who were forced to relocate when proximity rules were imposed.
Research around long-term recreational cannabis use and extended medicinal use is in process. The long-term physical and mental health effects from frequent use are unknown. Apparently, consumers can overdose from ingesting large quantities of edible cannabis products.
In March of this year the province of B.C. finally published “Cannabis retail store terms and conditions” as a guide for business owners and local government to use. Now policy, licensing and zoning guidelines are being clarified and standardized throughout B.C. Note: There is no significant tax benefit for municipalities to host a retail cannabis store.
Currently, cannibas retail stores are still prohibited in Langley City. However, our zoning bylaws are being updated within the next year, so council can create a zone for cannabis sales.
If there is an interest in welcoming this type of business into our community, council will work with staff to review cannabis store benefits and consequences with recommendations in keeping with provincial guidelines and with input from Langley City residents before moving forward.
Councillor Rosemary Wallace
A. I am in favour of having cannabis retail stores in specific parts of Langley City.
City council has already given some careful thought as to where appropriate locations might be.
I know that cannabis has given many people relief from pain and discomfort.
I look forward to hearing what the community’s views about this are.
Next week’s Langley Township councillors are being asked: Will there be enough parks, rec facilities, and libraries for the Township’s rapidly-growing population over the next decade?
Watch for their answers online next Sunday.