John Vassilaki conducted his first Penticton city council meeting as mayor on Nov. 20.                                Steve Kidd/Western News

John Vassilaki conducted his first Penticton city council meeting as mayor on Nov. 20. Steve Kidd/Western News

Council concerned about blocking cannabis retail from Main Street

Cannabis policy expected to be ready for Penticton city council on Dec. 4

Penticton city council is happy with the cannabis regulation framework, with one exception.

They were happy with regulations establishing a 300-metre buffer zone around schools, and minimum distances between storefronts, but the biggest stumbling block for council turned out to be a prohibition on cannabis retail outlets establishing themselves on Main and Front streets.

Coun. Judy Sentes said she has heard from the Downtown Penticton Association that they haven’t managed to get a consensus from their members about blocking shops from Main Street.

She said she heard from one business owner that there seemed to be an assumption that there would be a problem, but that really wasn’t known.

“I am not convinced we should keep it off of Main Street or off of Front Street,” said Sentes, agreeing with the sentiment.

Bloomfield, a former president of the DPA, also wasn’t convinced about the Main Street prohibition.

“I don’t like putting a lot of restrictions on businesses. I believe in a free market,” said Bloomfield, adding that he has heard less concerns about where cannabis is sold than where it is consumed.

Coun. Campbell Watt said he also would rather see locations not be limited off Main Street.

“I would like to see it open up and let the market dictate,” said Watt.

In the end, council voted unanimously to ask staff to include alternatives to the Main Street prohibition when the full policy is brought to council, expected to be at city council’s next regular meeting.

Planning manager Blake Laven said Penticton has already received seven application referrals from the provincial government, along with a letter of interest from the province, indicating they may want to open a provincial outlet here.

Laven said there are one or two pending applications he expects the city will recieve before the end of the year. The local evaluation process should begin in January, with public consultation and a number of steps, including council approval and a secondary provincial approval before shops can open.

Once all that is done, Laven said the city could see shops opening in the first or early second quarter on 2019.

Mayor John Vassilaki questioned whether there should be a cap on the number of stores in the community. Laven said each community has a different take, like West Kelowna capping the number of stores at four. For Penticton, he said, the buffering recommended in the framework should provide a natural limit on the number of stores.