The City of Vancouver is looking at new rules to regulate the booming retail marijuana business, including a $30,000 licensing fee to help recover the cost of enforcement.

"In the last two years, the city has seen a rapid growth rate of 100 per cent per year in marijuana-related businesses ... [going] from 60 to 80 in the last four months alone," said a statement issued by the city.

While medical marijuana shops have become commonplace in Vancouver in recent years, there is little in the way of regulations to control them, the statement notes.

"Up to now there has been a lack of a clear and transparent regulatory framework from the federal government," said the statement.

"While the city has no jurisdiction to regulate the sale of marijuana, it does have clear jurisdiction to regulate how and where businesses operate in our city."

Number of marijuana-related businesses in Vancouver

Vancouver has seen a rapid growth rate of 100 per cent per year in marijuana-related businesses in the past two years, the city said. (City of Vancouver)

Public concerned about marijuana

Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang says the city is acting on concerns raised by the public.

"We've heard loud and clear from the general public there is a lot of pot shops, and most of them are very close to schools so this is part of the reason," he told CBC News. 

"We want to make sure young people are protected. We want to keep them [marijuana shops] away from schools, community centres, and each other."

Jang says coming up with a solution hasn't been easy.

It's been incredibly challenging and that's why it took so much time," he said.

"Not only do we have federal laws to take into account, but municipal bylaws. We had to research what goes on in Colorado for example — looking at what the general public wants and trying to find that balance that allows reasonable access to medical marijuana, but at the same time protecting our youth and our kids."

Proposed new regulations

The proposed regulations include:

  • 300 metre distancing from schools, community centres, neighbourhood houses and other marijuana-related businesses.
  • A licensing fee of $30,000 to recover costs paid by the City to manage and enforce new regulatory framework
  • Operators to sign a mandatory Good Neighbour Agreement.
  • Operators to require a development permit which would include a standard community notification process.
  • Geographic restrictions specific to areas in the city, limiting businesses to commercial areas.
  • Applicants will be required to go through a three-stage review process, including point-based evaluation criteria, in order to obtain a business licence.

The measures are expected to be presented by city staff to councillors next week, and public hearings on the issue are expected.

Earlier this week marijuana supporters came under fire after the annual 4/20 pot rally downtown forced police to close several major streets during the afternoon rush hour.

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