Lower Mainland municipalities want the support of other Canadian jurisdictions as they push for a national debate on the regulation of marijuana dispensaries.
The B.C. communities are submitting a resolution for discussion at next month's Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention. The document, a copy of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail, says local governments have the authority to regulate marijuana dispensaries.
The resolution was endorsed by a coalition of 33 local governments from the Lower Mainland last week and will be forwarded to the FCM and the Union of B.C. Municipalities for consideration at their 2015 conventions.
Vancouver has been in the spotlight over controversial efforts to manage dispensaries, but an executive with the coalition said questions about the issue are rising in a number of smaller communities including North Vancouver, Port Moody and Squamish.
"It's not just a big-city issue. Anyone can come forward with a proposal to start a dispensary," Rick Glumac, a first vice-president with the Lower Mainland Local Government Association and a city councillor from Port Moody, said in an interview. "The municipal governments need clarity on how to handle this situation.
"It's a good time to have this conversation."
Mr. Glumac said municipalities are not sure how to respond to proposals for dispensaries, especially in light of pointed criticisms by federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose of Vancouver's plan to regulate dispensaries. The facilities provide marijuana to those with medical needs but have faced accusations of providing the drug to healthy consumers.
Ms. Ambrose has suggested Vancouver's proposal, which comes as the number of dispensaries has grown to more than 80 in recent years, might normalize marijuana access for youth. Mayor Gregor Robertson has rejected her concerns, and said the city will proceed with a plan that includes $30,000 licence fees and strict rules on the location of dispensaries.
"The debate needs to happen," said Mr. Glumac. "Everyone needs to be at the table."
Meanwhile, a councillor with the majority Vision Vancouver party on that city's council, says debate around the resolution could push Ottawa to a new, helpful perspective on dispensaries.
"It actually puts pressure on the federal government to start to regulate things better or realize their current approach might not be very effective," Kerry Jang, who has taken the lead on the file, said in an interview on Friday.
"This is really an issue being dumped onto the city because the federal government hasn't done anything,"
Mr. Jang said Ottawa has been mired in ideology on the issue. "I don't want an ideological debate. I want a practical debate about what to do about this issue in our city," he said.
Mr. Jang said he has received a number of e-mails from cities across Canada interested in the Vancouver example, "Everybody is watching us," he said.
That includes Victoria. On Thursday, city council in the B.C. capital directed city staff to draft new business and zoning regulations for marijuana dispensaries that could include licence fees and a ban on minors from the premises. The action came because of issues around an increase in dispensaries to 18 as of last month from four last year.
But George Affleck, a city councillor with the Non-Partisan Association, said it was odd Mr. Jang was speaking on the issue, given councillors are supposed to be avoiding public comment in light of pending public hearings expected to run through the summer.
For that reason, Mr. Affleck declined comment on issues around the resolution.