PORT MCNEILL, B.C. – The Town of Port McNeill is hoping to temporarily ban the sale of non-medical cannabis in town, after legalization.

A zoning bylaw to include the definition of cannabis retail received first reading at Port McNeill council’s June 4th meeting.

“The zoning bylaw currently doesn’t contain any language in regards to cannabis, and our concern was that we are a very small community that’s family-oriented,” said Port McNeill mayor, Shirley Ackland.

“We really needed to look at zoning and to get some public input into where would be the best places for cannabis (retail sales) when it becomes legal, so that it actually reflects what we, as a community, want to see in Port McNeill.”

Ackland said council hasn’t “particularly taken a stance” on cannabis retail.

“We’re just trying to ensure that with zoning, we can have a place in the community that if it is realistic to sell cannabis, that it’s in a place that is not going to offend people that don’t want to be subjected to it, that it isn’t around children and that it complies with all the federal and provincial regulations as they’re going to be set out,” she explained.

She said the town wants to create a committee to understand how the sale of cannabis could impact the region and to gather feedback from residents.

“We want to get good representation from people who may perhaps already have retail sales (experience), those that might be considering it, businesses that have to do with children, representation from Island Health, doctors and pharmacists are all people that we have considered,” she said.

“(We will) listen to what people’s concerns are, and their thoughts, so that we can move forward in a way that’s going to work best for all.”

Ackland said starting work on this early is key, to prepare for oncoming legalization.

“Step one of a reading of a zoning bylaw allows you to enter into that conversation, but it puts you in a framework of time, so that you can get it done in a timely manner,” Ackland said, explaining the first reading process.

“It puts us in a timeframe to have something in place or drafted in time for that perspective legislation (legalization of cannabis) to happen.”

As for whether or not the sale of cannabis will become an election issue, Ackland said she envisioned the legislation to be laid out before the October 20, 2018 municipal vote.

“I’m certain that the bylaw may likely be in place before an election, and basically (before) the election timeframe of six weeks has even happened,” she said.

“We could see this be decided by September. That’s what our hopes are, is that we’ve given opportunity for the public to make their voices heard long before we worry about getting right down into the heat of an election.”

The zoning bylaw is anticipated to receive its third and final reading in mid-July.