Langley Township is moving towards rules for retail sales of pot, while also seeking more powers to control how and where marijuana is grown on agricultural land.
On Monday afternoon, the council voted to kick off the start of the planning for retail marijuana, including public consultation.
“It starts the process,” said Mayor Jack Froese.
Local marijuana entrepreneur Randy Caine, owner of the Hempyz chain of marijuana-themed stores, was at the Monday evening meeting to ask for just such a move.
“We must face the ills of the past with confidence in this change,” he said of marijuana legalization.
The ultimate goal of legalizing pot was to get it out of the hands of violent gangs, Caine noted.
“We must help people stay away from the black market and organized crime,” he said.
Caine said he knows there are concerns about such a big change, but recalled other changes that have caused a lot of debate in Canadian society, from Sunday shopping to same sex marriage.
Retail marijuana has been slow to start up in the Lower Mainland, with a handful in Vancouver. With many Metro Vancouver communities moving slowly on their regulations for retail marijuana, almost every government store, operated by the BC Liquor Distribution Board, has opened in the B.C. Interior or in thenorthern part of the province. Campbell River, Cranbrook, Fort St. John, and Salmon Arm have approvals or operating retail cannabis stores, but there are few or none close to Langley.
In January, Surrey had received nine applications for cannabis retail outlets, but was considering none of them
For most people in Langley seeking a legal supply, mail order has been the only outlet.
Meanwhile, the council approved a motion by Coun. Margaret Kunst to attempt to exercise more control over the production side of cannabis.
After a number of recent controversies over existing or proposed marijuana farms, including the multi-acre Canopy Growth greenhouse in South Aldergrove, Kunst put forward a motion asking staff to prepare a bylaw to give the council the ability to regulate and, “if deemed necessary, restrict, or prohibit the growing of cannabis in the ALR and other agricultural zoned properties.”
The motion notes that the bylaw would have to be referred to the B.C. Minister of Agriculture for approval. Langley is a “regulated” community when it comes to farming matters, and has limited authority to control agricultural practices. This has caused controversy in the past over everything from mushroom manure production to bird cannons.