Blake Laven, City of Penticton planning manager, delivers the opening keynote at the sneak peek of the Cannabis Unconference at Orchard House on Dec. 6. The full conference is planned for Spring 2019. Jordyn Thomson/Western News

Cannabis conference planned for spring

City planning manager addresses cannabis unconference

The City of Penticton’s city planning manager, Blake Laven, delivered the opening keynote at the one-day sneak peek of the Cannabis Unconference at Orchard House on Dec. 6.

Laven outlined federal, provincial and municipal regulations regarding cannabis and the steps Penticton took in developing its current policy. He noted that the province “remains the authority over licencing” of cannabis retail outlets and the city only recently developed this policy, which includes “dealing with referrals it receives from the province.”

“Everything that we do at the local government, we do based on policies or bylaws that are adopted and given direction by our council,” said Laven. “So because we didn’t have any way to deal with these referrals coming from the province, we were tasked for creating a system to deal with these, what we call our local framework.”

Laven said city staff started the process of creating this framework on this “politicized topic” with public engagement. He noted that city staff went out into the community on April 20, 2018, a significant day in cannabis culture, to talk with citizens about how and if they’d like to see cannabis retail outlets in their community.

Laven noted that some of the current municipal regulations affecting cannabis retailers may be changed later, saying that city council wanted to proceed with caution with its first stores before scaling back limitations.

One attendee noted concerns with the accessibility of smoking cannabis for those who reside on rental properties, saying she was evicted from her previous residence in Kelowna for smoking medicinal marijuana off of her back porch. She asked where a renter would then be able to smoke since its use is not permitted in public spaces or vehicles and there are currently no cannabis lounges in the area.

“Our approach when we say no public consumption, I think we’ve always said that bylaws are there to establish expectations for the rest of the public,” said Laven.

Another attendee asked if, during the public engagement, citizens showed interest in or concerns about the opening of cannabis lounges within the city. Laven noted the city “has not approached that” although they did hear from citizens who were also concerned they would not have a place to legally consume the substance.

The full Cannabis Unconference is expected to take place in spring 2019.

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