Marijuana for sale at a Penticton dispensary that closed up shop earlier this year. Western News file photo

Legal pot shops in the South Okanagan still months in the future

Penticton still working on retail cannabis regulations

Don’t expect to see a licenced retail marijuana shop opening in Penticton anytime soon.

The City of Penticton is still in the process of developing the final stages of its cannabis regulatory framework, and Peter Weeber, the city’s chief administrative officer, said that won’t likely be finished until the first quarter of 2019.

“There is still some work to be done with the community and around the legislation,” Weeber said. “We’re receiving applications but until all our rules and our framework are in place, we are not considering anything.”

Related: City of Penticton still sorting out pot issues

There’s no shortage of interest according to Weeber, though he said only three have followed through on the application process through the province, so far.

“There will be limited space. Whoever is hoping to have a chain of shops in Penticton, that is not going to be possible,” said Weeber. “It will be very restrictive, much like the liquor store scenario. We will follow the same type of guidelines.”

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Monday that the province has received 173 paid applications for private cannabis retailers, and has sent 62 of them on to local governments or Indigenous nations for final assent before they can legally sell marijuana.

Related: B.C.’s marijuana stores should shut down, Mike Farnworth says

Penticton isn’t acting on them yet, but Weeber said the city has received applications vetted by the provincial government and returned to the city for approval. From there, Weeber said the city has total control.

“We don’t have to allow pot in the community at all if we don’t want it,” said Weeber, explaining that the city will have restricted areas where cannabis sellers can establish retail locations.

“And then there will be a government facility as well, likely,” said Weeber. “These are destination-type shops. Our intention is not to have them in downtown or in high traffic areas.”

As they wait for provincial and local approval, Farnworth advised that non-licensed retailers should close their doors.

“A number of stores have indicated that they want to become legal, and many are taking steps to make sure they have that ability, by applying and by recognizing that it’s probably in their interest to shut down their operations,” Farnworth said. “There have been other stores that have indicated they really don’t care what the rules are.”

Summerland said they’re ready for legalization, a bylaw and policy is in place governing retail cannabis sales but there are no retail cannabis applications yet.

Linda Tynan, Summerland’s chief administrative officer, anticipates some will be coming.

“We know there are sellers interested in getting their licenses from the province,” Tynan said. Summerland’s zoning bylaw allows retail sales of marijuana in the downtown commercial area and at the Summerfair Shopping Centre but the policy puts areas near schools and other places where children gather off-limits.

She added that there are no limits on the number of marijuana retail shops allowed within Summerland, nor are there limits on how close one shop may be to another. She said the market will play a factor in determining how many applications and how many retail shops will eventually operate within the community.

Meanwhile for the Town of Osoyoos, like many municipalities, chief administrative officer Barry Romanko says the legalization schedule is a “step-by-step process.”

“We’ve only had one application come to our desk,” said Romanko, adding the number of applications to the provincial government won’t be known until later. “This council has provided some direction, there’s been no cap put on the number of stores, the only provider is that they (council) passed a resolution not to support a government-run cannabis store.

“Yesterday (Monday) we completed passing our bylaw that allows for the zoning of cannabis on a site-specific zoning.”

He added there is also a policy in place that directs decision making about what criteria would be used in the site-selection process.

Romanko said under the current plan the next step will be for elected officials to deal with the business licensing bylaw which would likely go to council the first meeting in December.

“That addresses the fees and approaches we recommend using and the public consumption element won’t be dealt with until after the business license bylaw unless the new council makes it a priority to bring it up quicker,” he said.

The Town of Oliver has yet to receive any pending applications from the province for a dispensary licence within the town jurisdiction.

“The retail sale of cannabis is prohibited in all zones in Oliver except for the town commercial and highway commercial zones. We also ammended our land use bylaw with regard to receiving referrals from the province whereby there will $1,000 fee and if a public hearing is required, there will be an additional $500 fee — this is similar to any liquor licence applications the town receives,” said Diane Vaykovich, corporate officer for the town.

Vaykovich said in terms of business licencing it will “be the same fee (for Oliver-based dispensaries) as other retail outlets with a $100 fee.” She also said they anticipate the province will vet thoroughly any dispensary applications it receives for the town before town council chooses to approve or decline the request.

With files from Tom Fletcher, B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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