Tofino may have a reputation as a laid-back surfers' paradise, but as legalization looms the local government is taking a cautious approach to allowing storefront pot sales.

Mayor Josie Osborne said even though recreational cannabis is set to become legal across Canada on July 1, the district council won't rush to set a deadline on what it will allow.

A public meeting Tuesday morning gathered feedback on a proposed bylaw that will ban all cannabis production and sales in the district until after it sets new rules for location and licensing of stores.

 

"We need to take the proper amount of time to consult with the community to see what's important to them and how they want to see us do that," Osborne told CBC On the Island host Gregor Craigie.

"In the meantime, however, things are speeding along. We know that by July 1 the senior levels of government hope to have everything ready to go, but we're not certain we will have everything ready to go."

Josie Osborne

Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne says the district is seeking the community's views on locations and regulations for cannabis sales and productions before allowing any to open. (Simon Charland/CBC)

Osborne said the bylaw is "effectively closing the door in one sense, so that we can slowly open the door and enable this in a way that the community supports. But we need the time to be able to do it."

"It's kind of a proactive preventative measure."

Victoria and Vancouver are among cities that have already put licensing and rezoning requirements in place to regulate cannabis retail storefronts. 

Obsorne said the district is not worried that the bylaw banning all cannabis sales and product will be contrary to federal law after July 1.

"Municipalities still have the right to dictate where businesses can occur and how they can occur," she said.

'Take your time and do this well'

Osborne said the debate over licensing cannabis retailers is not about whether to allow it at all — the change in law is accepted by council. However, from legal advice and the experience of Colorado, Washington and Oregon which legalized cannabis earlier, she said, "the consistent message is, take your time and do this well."

The community's biggest concern is the location of businesses, Osborne said, although regulating where and when marijuana is consumed is also an issue. 

"Should that be like the way it is with our smoking bylaws or do people expect something different?" she said.


With files from CBC Radio One's On the Island and Gregor Craigie