Tofino hosted a cannabis Open House event at the Tin Wis Best Western Resort on Tuesday. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

Tofino hosted a cannabis Open House event at the Tin Wis Best Western Resort on Tuesday. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

VIDEO: Tofino gets blunt about marijuana legalization

“It’s great to see people engaged.”

Billing cannabis as a ‘gateway drug to public engagement,’ Tofino hosted an open house on Tuesday to talk about the federal government’s expected marijuana legalization this summer.

The open house stemmed from heavy public discourse the district has received since its municipal council considered a temporary ban on the sale and distribution of cannabis during their Jan. 23 council meeting.

Locals clamoured against that ban at a Feb. 13 public hearing, leading council to put the proposed restriction on the back-burner and launch a revitalized community engagement process.

Tofino mayor Josie Osborne told the Westerly News during the event that its purpose was to engage all sectors of the community including businesses, residents and parents to hear their thoughts about cannabis retail stores and consumption and noted the event drew significantly more participation than other public engagements, like budget meetings.

“The turnout has been absolutely fantastic. Obviously, this is a conversation starter if you ask people how they feel about cannabis regulations so we’ve had dozens and dozens of people through here,” she said. “I wish we had this at all our open houses, but it’s great to see people engaged. They obviously care and they want to have their say about their feelings and how cannabis retail should be regulated.”

Savanna Callison currently operates the Tofino Herb Company, a herbal apothecary, out of Green Soul Organics and is interested in operating a retail cannabis store.

“I did find the open house very helpful and I think I’ll find it even more helpful when I take home the information that was provided,” she said. “I’m, hopefully, going to meet with some of the council members to talk about some possibilities.”

Adam Wilson expressed concern over marijuana being zoned away from schools or playgrounds, but added he found his local government receptive and the vibe at the open house “absolutely positive.”

“Council definitely is willing to talk to people. They’re being up front in a lot of ways. So, I think, that’s a big beneficial point for our community to actually move to the next level,” he said. “I asked a lot of questions. I asked the mayor, I asked a lot of council members and they were more than happy to make sure that they answered me completely, that they were honest. Even off-record, I felt they were being honest so, all in all, I think it was a very positive step.”

Tofino councillor Greg Blanchette was happy with the turnout and said the open house format allowed for beneficial, free flowing, conversations.

“We can have some back and forth with people and, I think, get a much better idea of what they think,” he said. “For a brand new issue like this, it’s very important to have that dialogue. My mind isn’t made up. I hope nobody’s mind is made up until we hear from a bunch of people with different points of view.”

Logan Kapler hopes cannabis will be embraced in Tofino.

“I truly feel that cannabis could be helpful in the community if regulated in a proper way. I personally have been growing and using cannabis for many years and I’ve seen more good than bad come from it,” he said. “I would love to see the community of Tofino embrace the new legislation instead of trying to turn it away.”

Chris Heisterman attended the event to see how the community was reacting and said he was happy with how the open house was held.

“The District of Tofino, in general, they’re great and I felt that the munchies they put out were hilarious,” he said, though he added he was troubled to see strict regulations proposed around where cannabis can be sold.

“One thing I found interesting was how distance to schools was so important…So long as the consumption is regulated similar to alcohol, I don’t really understand why it needs to be 100 metres from a school or a park.”

Councillor Dorothy Baert said the community has an important role to play in shaping the future of cannabis in Tofino.

“The community is very interested in this question and how it evolves and I think we need to have a really wholesome discussion with as many residents as possible to get a sense of how this will play out in our community,” she said. “I’m not here to rewrite history. Decisions have been made at higher levels of government. I have no issues in that realm whatsoever. I see opportunity. I just want to know who benefits.”

Councillor Duncan McMaster said attending the event was a no-brainer given the focus the issue has received in the community.

“Obviously this is an important matter for the community and I want to hear what people think,” he said. “That’s what I’m employed for. It’s what I got elected for; to try and put forward the community’s views not just my view and I don’t have a view.”

Councillor Al Anderson suggested Tofino should start including budget information at cannabis meetings to take advantage of the attendance the issue draws.

“It’s an important issue. Lots and lots of interest has been generated and it’s always important that councillors are engaged; even more so when there’s this amount of interest,” he said.

Councillor Ray Thorogood said he appreciated the opportunity to hear from his constituents.

“Maybe we can get some direction to help make council’s decision on the direction we should be proceeding considering federal and provincial regulations that are going to come down first,” he said. “I just want to make a fair decision.”

Councillor Cathy Thicke said the open house was fruitful, but she hopes to see more effort made to reach out to local parents.

“We’ve heard quite a lot from certain groups of people in our community but, as I’ve said before, I’m very interested to hear what the parents of children and teenagers in our community feel because there’s quite a strong sentiment in the Cannabis Act which speaks to protecting young children, not only from visual cues, but also access to,” she said.

She added she has faced criticism for her view that feedback from parents and guardians of children should be actively sought.

“People have criticized me for asking that question,” she said. “But, as we all know, raising children is a fairly time consuming business and I think with vulnerable communities such as children, youth and First Nations I think it is incumbent upon us to ask those questions in a timely way just as we’re asking the general community here.”

She added a comment board saw repeated submissions around marijuana use and proximity to schools and parks.

“Certainly the responses on where a retail store should not be located seems to be fairly strong in terms of not being in proximity to schools or parks,” she said. “I think that is a really, really, good thing.”

Tofino’s manager of community sustainability, Aaron Rodgers, whose desk is where the initial proposed restriction came from, said the information collected at the open house will be reviewed and presented again at another open house scheduled for April 3. He added Tofino would consult with health professionals and neighbouring First Nations.

“From there, we’ll take all the feedback and try to start developing policies that we can get in front of council for their consideration,” he said.

He added though that January’s proposed amendment to restrict cannabis sales is not off the table.

“We’re paused now and we’re going to reverse a little bit based on the outcome of what we hear and then move forward from there,” he said, adding he’s been happy to see the public get engaged.

“I think it’s been really great. People are really passionate about it and engaged. It’s probably the greatest public engagement we’ve seen.”

On the other side of the peninsula, Tofino’s neighbour Ucluelet remains unsure how to handle the federal government’s incoming legislation.

Just Posted

A shot from within Leah McDiarmid’s new gallery shows a sneak peak at June 13’s opening exhibit. (Leah McDiarmid photo)
New gallery promises engaging experience in Tofino

Tofino Gallery of Contemporary Art unveils inaugural exhibit on June 13

Louise Rodgers and Georgina Valk cup a handful of freshly sifted, nutrient-rich compost. The duo met about 10 years ago while their kids were in kindergarten. They saw a need for composting in Tofino so they founded Tofino Urban Farm Co. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino moms turn mounds of organic waste into “Black Gold”

Curbside residential and commercial compost pickup to begin in 2022 for West Coasters

(file)
Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks thanks Tofino businesses for becoming allies

Businesses say they can play a part in reconciliation by supporting Indigenous stewardship

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Ucluelet mayor and council will wait until further in-person engagement can take place before making their final approval regarding the draft OCP that went to public hearing on May 13. (District of Ucluelet photo)
Future public input session planned for Ucluelet’s draft OCP

“A couple little changes and some housekeeping items and we’ll get to it in September”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read