Victoria's pot rules backed in task force report

For Victoria mayor Lisa Helps, this week's federal task force recommendations on marijuana sales look a lot like the regulations her own city council approved in September.

Proposed marijuana rules leave city on hook for enforcement, Victoria mayor says

About 40 cannabis dispensaries are estimated to be operating in Victoria as new rules come into effect. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

For Victoria mayor Lisa Helps, this week's federal task force recommendations on marijuana sales look a lot like the regulations her own city council approved in September.

Age restrictions, a ban on advertising and buffer zones to keep shops far from schools and parks are among the measures urged by the panel appointed to advise Justin Trudeau's Liberal government on legalizing pot.

"We're not way out there in terms of our approach. That's a good thing," Helps told On the Island host Gregor Craigie.

Even with this first step towards a national framework for legalized marijuana, Helps said Victoria remains on its own in enforcing regulations.

'Until legislation passes there's still a vacuum'

"Until legislation passes there's still a vacuum," she said. "We couldn't wait for something to be done, in terms of the proliferation of these cannabis dispensaries." 

For existing marijuana storefronts in Victoria, the city now requires a lengthy rezoning process that costs $7,500 and could take seven or eight months.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says a federal task force's recommendations on distribution of legalized marijuana are relatively similar to the rules adopted by the city. (Twitter)

If successful, the business is then allowed to purchase a $5,000 business license.

"We've put a regulatory regime in place. That will stay in place until we get further direction from the federal government and the province," Helps said. "That couldn't come soon enough."

While the task force urged distribution of legal pot through stand-alone dispensaries or by mail-order, Helps said she thought it would recommend the sale of cannabis through pharmacies.

Pharmacy sales would be 'easier for everyone'

"I think that probably would have been easier for everyone," she said. "There's a lot of work for local governments to do, even with the federal government and provincial governments stepping in.

"We'll certainly be on the ground with enforcement and certainly there will need to be rezoning applications just as there are for liquor stores."

As for enforcing any federal rules on products and THC levels, Helps said, "We really can't regulate that at the city level. "The labelling of medical substances is way beyond municipal jurisdiction."

Helps said she's not concerned about the prospect of having to change the city's regulations as the senior governments draft their own versions.

"We've made clear that this is not permanent. We're waiting for the provincial and federal government to make decisions," she said. 


To hear the full interview with Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps on CBC Radio One's On the Island go to Victoria's pot rules backed in task force report.