The stigma and uncertainty surrounding marijuana legalization is as present in Canada as it is here in the United States. Many people may have the impression that states like California and Colorado, or the entire country of Canada, are full of people that strongly support the legalization of cannabis. After all, California did see 57% of its electorate vote to have marijuana legalized, but in all reality there are many people that are uncomfortable with having marijuana dispensaries down the street from their home or anywhere close to their children. The best examples of this uncertainty are all of the towns and cities that are banning dispensaries or putting a moratorium on them.
In California only 1 in 7 cities are permitting marijuana dispensaries to open. In every Canadian province there are cities that are banning dispensaries as well. One of the methods a town will use to make sure a dispensary cannot open shop within city limits is through zoning that prevents a dispensary from opening a certain distance from a school.
“We’re all moving through this together for the first time and there’s a lot of uncertainty. If we can all take a fairly conservative approach to start things out and observe and understand how these operate, then maybe some of the policy concerns and regulations can be relaxed in the future,” London, Ontario‘s chief planner John Fleming said.
Quebec, which has the same provincially run retail model as Ontario, has yet to identify the locations for its cannabis outlets, but the Union des municipalités du Québec has recommended that pot shops be kept out of poor or troubled neighbourhoods.
But it’s British Columbia where municipalities are using the full power of their bylaws to slow down the rush to legalization. The province has decided to allow a mix of government-run and private cannabis retailers, but many cities banned the sale and distribution of legal pot on their territory through zoning changes.
“It was a bit of a safeguard to make sure that municipalities wouldn’t be in a situation of having a new form of legal retail store that wasn’t accounted for in a zoning bylaw and then could in theory open up in any place where a retail use was permitted,” said Sara Dubinsky, a Vancouver lawyer who specializes in bylaw enforcement and cannabis legalization.
It is understandable that with any new industry people may want to be cautious about letting it freely integrate into their lives without trying to understand it better first. Do you believe it is simply a matter of time before people see cannabis dispensaries just like liquor stores, or will the stigma surrounding cannabis linger?