There’s still no indication as to when people in the Cowichan Valley will be able to buy recreational marijuana from a legal dispensary.
The first day of the legalization of pot across Canada was on Oct. 17, but, ironically, that was also the day that most, if not all, of the approximately eight marijuana dispensaries in the Valley shut their doors.
Most of the dispensaries, which were operating illegally, closed down as part of their efforts to receive provincial and municipal approval to operate after the province made it clear that continuing to operate after Oct. 17 could jeopardize their chances of becoming legal.
Liam Butler, a public affairs officer for the Ministry of Public Safety & Attorney General, said although the ministry doesn’t break down the number of applications it has for pot shops by community, 56 paid applications have been received from the region of Vancouver Island-Gulf Islands-Powell River.
Of those, 26 have been referred back to local governments for their consideration as the locations must be approved by the respective municipalities.
Butler said a number of them are expected to be still undergoing background checks by the province even if they get approval from the municipalities.
The province is conducting background checks to ensure that none of the money involved in the operations is linked to organized crime.
“It’s tough to say when and where the first private retail marijuana dispensary in the province will be fully licensed to open,” Butler said.
“It will simply be a matter of the timing of processing the applications. It’s taking a long time due to a number of factors, including the recent municipal elections.”
There is only one government-run store, in Kamloops, operating legally anywhere in the province as of the end of October, while no private retail stores have yet been given the green light to open.
Rob Conway, manager of inspections and enforcement with the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said he expects it will still be some time yet before retail pot stores are allowed to operate in the CVRD, and likely other municipalities across the province.
He said that while the CVRD’s board had amended its bylaws to regulate the production and sale of marijuana within its jurisdiction, federal and provincial regulations regarding pot are still evolving and will likely necessitate further amendments to the bylaws.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” Conway said
RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Tammy Douglas said only two dispensaries on the Island, both in Port Alberni, have been raided and shut down by the police since Oct. 17.
But she said the RCMP has no indication if more continue to operate and have not been reported to authorities.
“The RCMP in B.C. will continue to take a measured approach when dealing with illegal storefronts, with public safety being the priority,” Douglas said.
“Detachments will continue to set enforcement priorities in consultation with local governments, partners, and citizens in the community. Police will gather evidence and take enforcement actions accordingly.”