As complaints continue to roll in like a coastal fog, the City of Port Alberni is searching for ways to enforce the smell of cannabis.
At a council meeting last week, community safety manager Chris Baker presented a report to council on odour regulations, after conversations with other municipalities in B.C.
He highlighted the approach taken by Campbell River, which has used parts of its existing nuisance bylaw to crack down on smells.
Originally, the business-facing piece of the legislation can compel operators to consult an odour control specialist, who will certify that appropriate measures have been taken to mitigate the smell.
The rules were developed for seafood processors, but the city has had some success by applying it to cannabis companies, Baker explained.
Part of Campbell River’s odour rules also apply to non-commercial properties.
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Port Alberi Mayor Sharie Minions says that regulating over grandfathered cannabis licensees has been challenging, noting the confusing jurisdiction of federal licences within municipal boundaries.
She says these older operators — which are licensed to produce pot for medical purposes, but are in many cases used to grow for illicit sale — give the new, legal industry a bad rap.
“When we did go through the process recently of intentionally allowing this industry into our community and allowing zoning for cultivation, that’s the type of industry we want to encourage here,” Minions said at the meeting.
“And unfortunately that industry is left with a bad reputation because of the previous existing licences that are not held to the same standard that we’re trying to achieve.”
Council voted to submit its concerns to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities and the Union of BC Municipalities.
When asked if current bylaws could be used, Baker said they would have to be amended for this new purpose, stating that requiring a third-party odour expert is novel.
But it’s not clear that non-commercial licensees could be forced to consult with such experts anyhow.
Following legalization in 2018, a number of B.C. municipalities have been trying to crack down on licensees of Health Canada’s personal medical production program. Meanwhile, many legacy growers haven’t been able to seek new commercial licences because municipal zoning hasn’t been updated to allow for that.