London councillors push staff to prepare for legal pot

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Two city councillors want staff to start figuring out now how London will handle legal marijuana in a year.

Just getting the zoning rules in place for retail outlets could take months, Jared Zaifman and Jesse Helmer say in a letter heading to city council’s planning and environment committee Monday.

“There’s a lot to consider,” Zaifman said in an interview. “Jesse and I have some concerns about the time we as a municipality will need to prepare for this.”

The letter asks council to direct staff to review how other communities have handled zoning for cannabis sales and consult with provincial officials, the health unit and police for their approach on regulations.

Staff would report back in early 2018 with options that could be put in place once the legislation is approved by the federal government.

“If municipalities wait for legislation before making policy, it could be a big problem,” Zaifman said.

London could find itself under pressure to allow sales before having rules and zoning in place, he said.

“We need to make sure we have the policies ready so it’s a good transition.”

A major consideration: whether the city has to create new zoning bylaws or can use existing ones to authorize places that sell marijuana products, the letter states.

Zoning amendments can take four to six months to research, consult with the public, and debate at committee and council, Helmer and Zaifman write.

The federal government plans to legalize marijuana by July 2018, leaving the provinces to decide the age of majority and other rules.

Municipalities across Canada are faced with the grunt work of developing licensing and zoning rules, enhancing public-health measures and adding to policing and enforcement of rules. 

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