Nelson BC holds telephone town hall on cannabis reform

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Courtesy of Lift Magazine

Exactly one month before the federal government announced the details of the new Cannabis Act, a group of panelists was assembled by the NDP’s Wayne Stetski, Member of Parliament for B.C.’s Kootenay—Columbia riding. The group was assembled to discuss the implications of the then-anticipated regulations, and to engage with community members in the Kootenay region through a telephone town hall. Thousands of residents from cities and towns in the region called in to participate.

In addition to the host, Wayne Stetski, the panel included Nelson’s mayor Deb Kozak, the executive director of the East Kootenay Addiction Services, Dean Nicholson, and the owners of Kimberley-based dispensary Tamarack, Rod & Tamara Duggan. The RCMP were invited to participate, but respectfully declined.

After a brief introduction, Mayor Kozak opened the discussion by stating that the City of Nelson has opted to allow dispensaries to open immediately, with the anticipation that the law would be passed in fairly short fashion.

Nelson city council recently put into place a bylaw to regulate dispensaries, allowing up to six dispensaries to operate within the city. The bylaw is an interim provision while locals wait for the new federal regulations to be implemented, and will be repealed or amended to comply with federal regulations once the Cannabis Act takes effect.

Tamarack’s Tara Duggan offered a plea for B.C.’s small-business cannabis industry. “As independents,” she said, “the concerns that we have around the forthcoming legislation center around the independent ownership of dispensaries, and where we would fit into that when licensed producers want to have a monopoly on opening their own storefronts.”

The first call-in question posed to the panel asked, “Where will the money go? Once it goes back to the federal government, who gets it and where does it go?”

The answer came from Wayne Stetski, who inferred a preference toward that revenue helping to end homelessness, and bolstering senior strategy to reduce the struggles faced by seniors in their golden years.

A question asked both at the town hall and in headlines throughout the media over the past week was, “does marijuana affect driving?”

Stetski offered a response at the town hall, stating that the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the RCMP and municipal police have the right and ability to determine impairment from cannabis and other drugs. He added that police forces will be developing standard criteria for determining whether someone is impaired or not impaired.

Another caller lamented US border agents preventing canadians with cannabis charges from entering the US, as well as Canadians suffering in general from having criminal records. She went on to condemn the federal government’s four plant limit as “ridiculous, unless you want to pay expensive hydro bills.”

“I prefer to grow outside in the summertime and to grow enough for a whole year without using a lot of power,” she said, “and that would kind of ruin that.”

Questions then turned to the more technical, with a caller asking if any input has been received from the

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