POWELL RIVER, B.C. – The city of Powell River is getting set for the oncoming legalization of marijuana.

“We are trying to understand and implement the provincial regulations for cannabis as they apply to municipalities,” said Mac Fraser, the city of Powell River’s Chief Administrative Officer.

With the previous Liberal provincial government, it was decided that cannabis would be sold for recreational purposes in liquor stores, and for medicinal purposes in pharmacies.

“What changed in the early part of February this year is that the new provincial government said that cannabis for recreational purposes would be sold in stand-alone stores, and not in liquor stores,” he explained.

“The regulations give the municipalities the authority to do a number of things, including an outright prohibition of the sale of cannabis, or the capping of the number of outlets allowed and very specifically where in the city it would be allowed, the proximity to other things like schools and rules about public consumption, the actual smoking of cannabis.”

Fraser said staff is still learning from the provincial regulations. He said they are putting together a series of workshops for council and senior staff.

“We’re bringing in our municipal lawyer, who is personally becoming a bit of an expert in the province about legalization of cannabis,” said Fraser.

He noted that council wants to hold workshops for the public, to educate them on the future sale and public consumption of marijuana.

“When it comes to the legal sale of cannabis, the new regulations are saying it has to be in a stand-alone store away from liquor stores, but the system is seemingly very similar to the provincial control of liquor retail in that the liquor control board will be the authority on behalf of the province that looks after the sale of cannabis,” he said.

“It appears that many of the processes that go through will be similar to getting a liquor retail license, so that municipal powers are very similar again through zoning, general consumption in public areas. Those are our traditional liquor authorities and it will probably look the same for cannabis.”

Fraser said over the next few months, before the legalization, staff will be taking the time to further educate themselves on cannabis.

“Really in B.C., there’s a big common learning curve for all jurisdictions that we’re going through. We’re hopeful that it’s not too steep a learning curve, but it’s still a learning curve.”