People smoking pot in West Kelowna face tough fines, confusion

FILE PHOTO - A young man smokes a marijuana joint during a rally in downtown Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday April 20, 2011.
FILE PHOTO - A young man smokes a marijuana joint during a rally in downtown Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday April 20, 2011.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

WEST KELOWNA - If you’re caught lighting up a cigarette in a West Kelowna park or public place, you can be hit with a $100 fine. But, if that happens to be a cannabis joint anywhere but on private property, the penalty jumps to $500.

And, depending where you’re smoking, it may be totally illegal.

Earlier this week, West Kelowna city council gave final approval for the $500 fine and went beyond the rules against smoking cigarettes that only applied to parks and public spaces. That means people can smoke tobacco on the street on sidewalk but not pot.

There’s a total ban on Westbank First Nations land.

And the rules are different Kelowna.

“The City of Kelowna had a bylaw not allowing the smoking of any substance in parks and public spaces,” city infrastructure and operations manager Ian Wilson said. “At this point in time, we’re not planning to pass an additional bylaw that says you can’t smoke, for example, on a city street.”

Besides, he added, there is no money from the federal or provincial governments to police such a law.

There’s a $100 fine for smoking in Kelowna parks and certain public spaces, such as around Parkinson Recreation Centre or beside Kelowna Community Theatre. But that does not apply to roads or sidewalks.

The complication for people on the west side of Okanagan Lake is that, while they can smoke in their West Kelowna homes they cannot in a nearby home on Westbank First Nation land.

“Sometimes the boundary between the two is a little hard for people to discern,” the band's legal council Kevin Kingston said. “But there’s lots of signage for West Kelowna and for WFN. People can do their best.”

Band council is meeting next week for two days to wrestle with the issue or growing, possessing or selling cannabis.

“At this time, there is only one rule,” Kingston said. “It is absolutely prohibited on WFN lands, under our Safe Premises Law.”

Normally, he said, the First Nation tries to be consistent – or at least not inconsistent - with West Kelowna and Kelowna on appropriate issues. But with those two cities having different rules, he cannot predict where they will end up. Even after next week’s meetings there may be further public consultation before any final decisions are made.

When it comes to the cost of processing rezoning applications, West Kelowna is much pricier if someone can’t complete an application.

While Kelowna charges a non-refundable $1,000 application fee, that’s as far as it goes if the application doesn’t proceed to rezoning. It costs another $9,459 to go through the rezoning process.

In West Kelowna, there’s a $7,500 application fee that has to be paid up front. If the applicant, based on feedback from staff, pulls out before a report is written for council, they get 50 per cent back. But, the cost of even submitting an application ends up being $3,750 vs. $1,000 in Kelowna.

And West Kelowna is limiting the number of stores to four, ideally with two in the Westbank town centre area and two in the Boucherie industrial/commercial area. Kelowna has not imposed a limit.

As of today, Oct. 11, Kelowna had not received any applications but planning staff have fielded dozens of inquires since opening the door to applications on Oct. 1, said city planner Ryan Smith.

Since all applications received between now and Nov. 30 will be reviewed as one batch, there’s no incentive for anyone to rush forward with an application.

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