Tofino pumps brakes on cannabis ban

District will host Open House and launch online engagement process.

Tofino’s municipal council is pumping the brakes on its proposed cannabis ban and will solicit more feedback from the community both online and in person.

A bylaw amendment that would restrict the sale production and distribution of cannabis within the community was up for review during council’s Feb. 27 regular meeting and council decided to further engage with their constituents before making a decision.

Council had hosted a public hearing about the bylaw amendment on Feb. 13 and heard mixed reviews from locals with the majority who spoke being opposed to the ban. On Feb. 27, council decided to re-open the public engagement process, host an Open House event and launch an online engagement process.

Coun. Cathy Thicke suggested the district must ensure youth and parents are involved in the conversation.

“How is it that our council and our community is going to capture those young persons?” she asked. “We’ve heard from those people who have loud and energetic voice, but how are we going to capture the voices of the young and vulnerable who are affected as well?”

She suggested that, in addition to the Open House, council “actively solicit some responses” from anyone responsible for youth in the community, including the Wickaninnish Community School Society and Parent Advisory Council.

Mayor Josie Osborne said actively soliciting feedback from all areas of the community was a good idea.

“I think there are many voices to be heard and that’s an important part of getting balanced feedback,” she said adding council heard a need for increased engagement during Feb. 13’s public hearing.

“This is not a council that’s opposed to cannabis. This is a council that wants to do the best job possible soliciting feedback from the community to make sure that we take care of everybody’s interests.”

Coun. Al Anderson cautioned against focusing on any specific group.

“You tend to get results that skew a process when you say we want extra feedback here or there,” he said. “It’s important that youth are considered, but a call for feedback and input at an open house or public hearing needs to cast a broad net and not necessarily be focused on the parents.”

Osborne said that would not be an issue as the entire community would be invited to particpate in the discussion.

Anderson added that Tofino has a smoking bylaw on the books that prohibits tobacco use in public spaces like playgrounds and asked whether marijuana could be added to that.

District CAO Bob MacPherson said that it would.

“The province is going to have its own regulations about where cannabis cannot be consumed…This is a new area of law and regulation that senior levels of government are still working their way through,” he said.

“That’s actually one of the challenges. We hear about this idea of cannabis tourism, but you go and buy cannabis in Seattle and you can’t smoke it on the street, you can’t smoke it in your car, you can’t smoke it on the sidewalk or a park and you go back to your hotel and all hotels are non-smoking pretty much now. So, it is a bit of a funny thing. I don’t think there’s a really good answer to it.”

The district’s manager of community sustainability Aaron Rodgers told the Westerly News after the meeting that multiple open houses will likely be held, with the first expected to take place within the month, and a webpage to solicit online feedback was expected to be launched this week.

“It’s going to take some time to build trust with the community and have a little bit of a back and forth, so we want to make sure we have enough time to do that…Once we understand what the parts that are causing some cocnern in the community are, we can try to figure those out a little bit more,” he said adding Tofino is expecting that legislation to be enacted in late-August.

”Our goal is to have everything in place before the federal legislation is complete.”

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