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Whistler staying cautious as cannabis goes legal

Smoking, vaping to be banned on village stroll

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On Wednesday, Oct. 17, one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's big campaign promises finally came to fruition with the legalization of recreational cannabis countrywide.

The province's first and only BC Cannabis Store opened in Kamloops on Oct. 17, along with an online shopping portal at www.bccannabisstores.com.

But in Whistler, as in many other places in British Columbia, the approach remains a cautious one.

In January, council updated its zoning bylaw related to cannabis retail, production and distribution, keeping them prohibited—effectively maintaining the "status quo" in Whistler for the time being.

But the assertion floated by some lately that Whistler will never have pot shops is "ridiculous," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

"We've talked about this on several occasions, and banning cannabis and the retail sales of cannabis probably won't work in the long run here," she said.

"But on the other hand, we don't want a store on every corner either, so let's just wait and see and then roll it out when it's time."

In the meantime, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has been fielding a "high volume" of inquiries from prospective retailers, to the tune of two or three a week for several months.

Prospective retailers are asked to email cannabis@whistler.ca to express interest, and they will be notified of future consultation opportunities when they arise.

As for how all of the interested parties will be prioritized, Wilhelm-Morden said it's a good question.

"Do we want to allow retail in the village, or would it be limited to Creekside or to Function? But we need to talk to the community first. We haven't even done that, because I think everybody is a little bit confused about what this is going to look like," she said.

"And so really we want to see how it rolls out, let things settle down a little bit, consult with the community and go from there."

The Whistler RCMP, meanwhile, had nothing to add in the days leading up to legalization, declining to comment.

In the meantime, an update to Whistler's smoking regulation bylaw given first three readings at the Oct. 16 council meeting will ban smoking—cannabis, tobacco, vaping or otherwise—from the Village Stroll entirely.

The bylaw first came to council on Oct. 2, when Councillor Jack Crompton proposed an amendment to include the Village Stroll.

"It was something we had discussed at Committee of the Whole (COW) a couple of years ago, and then when the bylaw actually got prepared the last time a couple weeks ago, it didn't reflect actually what we had spoken about earlier at the COW," Wilhelm-Morden said.

"So I was happy to hear Jack's amendment and then staff going away and fixing it up, and so I'm happy with the way it is now."

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