Cannabis retailers will be able to locate along Main and Front Street in Penticton’s downtown core, thanks to a vote by city council this week.
Opinion remained somewhat divided on not including a ban, both at the council table and with downtown business owners who came forward.
Allayne Clark, of Banks Travel, is concerned allowing cannabis retail to locate downtown would increase the social problems they already see.
“We are completely against the cannabis store going in right next to us. It’s just adding fuel to the fire. We already have a huge issue,” said Clark. “Almost every single day somebody comes into our office that is either homeless, drunk, stoned or has a mental illness. They wander in every single day.”
“If it does go ahead and there is a problem … how are you going solve it? What’s the plan for that?”
Daryl Clarke, a Penticton chamber of commerce director, felt allowing cannabis retail in the core wouldn’t change anything, at least not for the negative.
“We do have a problem downtown with the homeless, with the mentally ill, with the drug addicted, but they’re there now,” said Clarke. “It’s (cannabis stores) not a drug operation. It’s not going to be what it used to be. It’s not what everybody is fearing.
“I’d like to see the stores allowed in these areas but we do need to keep working on the other problems in the downtown. We also need to be realistic and not blame them on the future cannabis store that’s not there now.”
On council, Coun. Jake Kimberley continued his opposition to allowing the stores in downtown.
“If we allow the operation of cannabis stores in the downtown, I think it’s going to be difficult legally to close them down if they create a problem,” said Kimberley, who also cited concerns that black market sellers would also move into the area to compete with the higher price legal sellers would have to charge.
“The peddlers that are out there, the drug movers and the sellers, will be out there competing,” said Kimberley, who also cited concerns about children seeing the stores, and argued that people coming to buy pot wouldn’t likely be shopping at other stores.
“They’re not going down there to do shopping, they’re going down there to buy the drugs. Let them go elsewhere to buy their drugs.”
Coun. Julius Bloomfield argued that a century ago, you might have heard the same arguments about the sale of alcohol.
“The problems downtown are created not by the people that are smoking what is now a legal drug. Downtown problems are more of a social issue …those people are consuming drugs that are still illegal and should be,” said Bloomfield. “To penalize cannabis for the social problems that we have downtown is like penalizing wine and beer stores for the same thing.”
Bloomfield also noted that people think nothing of a child walking past a wine store.
“From a drug perspective, cannabis poses less of a threat to society than alcohol,” said Bloomfield, adding that the city doesn’t restrict the sales and trading of other businesses.
“I think we have to change our thinking as to what’s an acceptable behaviour or what’s an acceptable drug, whether it be alcohol or cannabis.”
Sentes echoed Bloomfield’s comments.
“I think we’re open for business. This is a business that’s been legalized, whether you like it or not, it’s here,” said Sentes. “I don’t think we go to the other businesses in town and place similar restrictions on them.”