SURREY — To ensure no pot dispensaries set up in Surrey ahead of federal legalization this summer, the city is making “immediate” changes to its zoning bylaw.
The changes may be small, but they’re important, said Councillor Mike Starchuk.
During a tour of U.S. cities that have already undergone legalization, Starchuk said it was “very clear” that when talking about recreational pot, the key word in legislation both there and in Canada was “cannabis.”
The thing is, he explained, Surrey’s bylaw currently uses the term “marijuana.”
“From a legal standpoint, (cannabis) is the word that’s there,” he said. “That’s the technical term.”
Starchuk said city hall has inquiries every week about setting up pot shops here.
“I can tell you right now, we don’t have any dispensaries in the City of Surrey…. We don’t want to open up a door,” he said.
At least, not for now.
“It’s not legal, it’s a controlled substance and the federal government has not provided the law that says it is legal yet,” said Starchuk. “But this corporate report and the housekeeping items of changing the term cannabis from marijuana, will line up with the federal.”
City council approved the changes during a meeting Monday (March 12).
A corporate report to council recommended the “immediate” changes to the city’s zoning bylaw to “ensure any dispensaries currently operating are solidified as being illegal prior to any legislation change” which would “provide additional time to determine how Surrey will manage this use once legalized.”
The report, signed by Planning and Development Manager Jean Lamontagne and City Solicitor Craig MacFarlane, notes the changes are a “first step” in Surrey managing the changes coming forward as a result of the changes to federal legislation.
And, to “provide the maximum level of control in managing this use once legalization takes effect.”
“Immediate adjustments involve adding new definitions that are consistent with Federal definitions of cannabis and cannabis-related activities and placing prohibitions on retail sales, dispensaries and production prior to legalization,” the report notes.
The proposed changes would see new definitions added to the city’s zoning bylaw for the terms cannabis, cannabis dispensary and cannabis production facility.
The words marijuana, marijuana dispensary and medical marijuana, meantime, would be removed.
If approved, the horticulture definition would also change to add new references to cannabis.
More bylaw changes are expected once recreational cannabis becomes legal later this year, the report notes, once the city has fully determined how it will be managed in Surrey.
Future amendments could include where operations will be permitted to set up and in what proximity they will be to other amenities, such as schools and parks and rehab centres.
Rules about where people will be allowed to smoke could materialize, as well.
Currently, the City of Surrey treats e-cigarettes, vaporizers and cigarettes the same in its bylaw, which bans smoking within seven-and-a-half metres of bus stops, in addition to the provincial rules that prohibit lighting up within six metres of public or workplace buildings, doorways, windows and air intakes.