Coun. Tim McGonigle reminded Lake Cowichan residents that the recently concluded straw poll about cannabis shops in town was about recreational cannabis outlets, not places offering medical cannabis. (Gazette file)

VIDEO: Lake Cowichan folks want retail cannabis, just not too close to schools

Straw poll goes three-to-one in favour of allowing recreational pot shops

Lake Cowichan town council’s straw poll has discovered that 177 people said they liked the idea of retail cannabis outlets in town while 59 voted ‘no’.

A mail-out survey went to Lake Cowichan households, with the request to get answers back to the town office by Sept. 30. The results were released at the Oct. 8 town council finance and administration committee meeting.

According to the report, of those in favour, 24 folks were unhappy with the idea of locating a retail cannabis operation only 100 metres from health facilities, schools, and daycare facilities.

Among the comments from those voting yes, people said, “there are revenues and employment benefits for the community”, “the same rules that apply to liquor stores should apply to cannabis sales”, “as it is legal in Canada the process should be faster,” and “there should be a maximum number of stores.”

The “no” voters were concerned about smell, possible increases in crime and illegal drug use.

Concerns about “proper enforcement” and “distance from minors and residential areas” were also mentioned.

Coun. Tim McGonigle, looking at the results, said, “These are almost three to one in favour; there was some confusion as to retail cannabis and medical cannabis. I saw in the surveys some comments that it was about time that people could get their medicines and I want to reiterate again that this is retail, for recreational use. Medical cannabis is still only available through Health Canada and those avenues unfortunately.

“But reading some of the other comments, [I read that] some said 100 metres was not satisfactory and I think we should take that into consideration when we do have those applications that do come forward.”

McGonigle said that he was not in favour of the Cowichan Valley school district’s recommendation of keeping cannabis outlets 600 metres from schools. He learned later in the meeting that the school district was halving that recommendation to 300 metres, having considered the smaller communities in the Valley.

Dalton Smith, manager of the town’s Lakeview Park campsite, said, “I was quietly concerned at the opening of the season as to how the [cannabis] rule would affect the campsite visitors. Really, there was no difference and I had no complaints one way or the other. It was not a big deal.”

McGonigle said, “That again shows some of the misconceptions about what the ramifications would be. It’s been legal for a year now.”

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