West Vancouver has become the latest municipality in Metro Vancouver to ban all cannabis retail and production facilities within its boundaries.
By unanimous vote, councillors decided that no businesses could apply to set up in the municipality without a rezoning hearing.
Staff will begin working on a larger regulatory framework that could allow retail operations without rezoning, but that won't be presented to council until after legalization and municipal elections in October.
"I think staff are on the right track, and we're moving forward, but as per usual, a little on the slow side," said coun. Nora Gambioli.
In its cannabis legislation passed earlier this year, the provincial government has given municipalities veto power over approving retail licences. Residents in municipalities with bans will still be able to purchase cannnabis through a government-run website.
Jim Bailey, West Vancouver's director of planning, emphasized that the city could still allow businesses to set up shop.
"In a way, it's prohibition light," he said, arguing there was no confusion over passing the bylaw and telling businesses they are still welcome to work with the municipality.
"Staff don't believe it's contradictory. By not allowing them outright … it gives you an added level of control."
Several cities have bans
The municipality becomes the latest in Metro Vancouver to put a pre-emptive prohibition on non-medicinal cannabis sales before it becomes legal on Oct. 17.
Maple Ridge, Delta and Richmond are among those with complete bans on retail operations, all opting to wait for legalization before beginning any process for allowing stores to open. White Rock passed a retail ban in January, but has since moved forward on public hearings to allow one in the town centre.
"Why are we [adding] a bylaw in July when October and November is when you would need something in place?" said Ian Dawkins, president of the Cannabis Commerce Association of Canada, which represents small producers.
"Can't we have months of public hearings and fact finding?"
With the Lower Mainland a patchwork of different municipalities, he said jurisdictions that lag behind in allowing retail and production facilities would lose business to those that have already set up regulatory regimes.
"If you're West Vancouver, Squamish has a bylaw just north of you, North Vancouver will be putting something in place. It's not like there's not going to be any legal cannabis in West Vancouver, all there's going to be is a lack of jobs, a lack of opportunities," he said.
"You can't hand wave it away and kick it too the next municipal government, which is a lot of what's going on here."
But Mayor Michael Smith characterized their pace as reflective of the municipality's political culture.
"Once staff have completed their review, we will have rules and regulations as to how we move forward ... we don't mind playing catchup, as long as we eventually catch up," he said.
"Things move slowly in West Vancouver, but eventually we get there. And when we do get there, we want to make sure we have the right regulations in place."