The past year has presented a steep learning curve for Warfield Mayor Diane Langman.
She was officially sworn into the role March 10 last year, after stepping down as an elected councillor to run in the village’s February 2017 byelection.
This March, Langman was away from home attending her first BC Mayors’ Caucus in Squamish alongside 62 of her peers. The conference ran from the 14th to the 16th at Quest University.
This year’s dialogue focused on the legalization of marijuana, the opioid crisis, and mental health and addiction.
So what did she take from the spring session and bring back to Warfield constituents?
First on her list, was to explore where the village stands on the pot issue.
“Warfield is planning to have a public hearing on April 25 to discuss whether or not our community wants to have a dispensary,” Langman told the Times. “For Warfield, this is where we want to ensure that we have the best information in our hands, and that it is the most current information.”
She clarified that community engagement on the matter is not a requirement, but it is vital for such a small township.
“As a council, we wanted to ensure we are speaking on behalf of our community and listen to what they have to say,” Langman explained. “As a municipality, we have the right to say whether we do or do not want a dispensary, the location, the distance away from schools, or the number of dispensaries we want in the village.”
Those issues must be addressed through the village’s zoning bylaws and included in its OCP (Official Community Plan). After extensive public consultation, council updated the OCP last fall, but it doesn’t account for changes related to marijuana legalization.
“This is where Warfield needs to focus, specifically in our zoning bylaw,” Langman clarified. “But before we reach that point, we want to ensure that we listen to the residents of Warfield and gather their input.”
Regarding pot legalization talks at the caucus, Langman says the mayors’ agreed to endorse and lobby specific points. Those include stances such as cannabis legalization should not result in additional local government funding by property tax payers, local governments should be reimbursed for costs associated with the implementation of legalized cannabis and local governments should be reimbursed for any additional policing costs resulting from cannabis legalization.
The topic will hit the Trail council in April, when the panel reviews a staff report during the governance meeting.
“There seem to be a lot of changes going on, but it seems that there will be delays in how this is all rolling out,” Langman added.
“The biggest issue that I believe still remains, is how the police will deal with the impaired driving part of things. There is still a lot of confusion about this end of things and how it will be resolved.”
The second topic, the proliferation of illegal opioids in B.C., was also timely and eye-opening.
There was a 43 per cent increase in illicit overdose deaths in B.C. last year, and 30 of those were in the Kootenay Boundary, according to numbers from the BC Coroners Service.
“One of the biggest things that I took away from this is that 80 per cent of users are using drugs in isolation,” said Langman. “With fentanyl and carfentanyl, this is where the majority of overdose deaths have been occurring, is in the users who are at home alone.”
Dr. Mark Tyndall, head of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, spoke at length about the crisis.
“And that we cannot just single out tackling the opioid crisis but how this is also tied with other issues,” she said.
“This is a demand- driven problem that Tyndall believes cannot be solved by just hammering down on the dealers, but really, we need to deal with the people who are buying the drugs and focus on their health. We need to find a system to help with addiction therapy and harm reduction.”