Penticton is one step closer to having recreational cannabis retail stores open, thanks to a council decision earlier this week.
City council approved four out of eight proposed cannabis retail store locations within the city at their April 16 meeting. There were 10 applications before the first intake deadline in February, but two have requested extra time to present more information to council about their businesses before a decision is made.
Green Gaia (210 Main St.), Cannabis Cottage (385 Martin St.), Spiritleaf (2695 Skaha Lake Rd.) and B.C. (provincial) Cannabis Store (103-2050 Main St.) will all receive recommendations of support from the city to the British Columbia Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (BCLCRB). Council chose to defer their decision to either support or deny the applications from Zen Canna (2050 Main St.), Green Essence (101-437 Martin St.), Greenery Cannabis Boutique (465 Main St.) and Bluewater Cannabis (130 Nanaimo Ave. W.).
According to a report from city staff, the results of the April 2018 public engagement session, suggested 70 per cent of those surveyed wanted limited cannabis retail sales in the city. Using this feedback, council and the city developed a policy to review applications, including regulating the stores’ outer facades as well as where they could exist within the city. Proposed store locations that are in conflict of one another due to the policy buffer zone were then reviewed ‘based on merit.’
“The policy intent is to establish opportunities for limited sales of cannabis in Penticton in a regulated manner, reducing exposure to youth and ensuring the retail stores have a positive impact on the Penticton retail community,” read the report given to council.
City staff created a panel of five members from various city departments to look over and score the applications using a “matrix based on the intent of the policy,” out of 100. Scores were done independently, then averaged and adjusted based on a consensus from the panel. Recommendations were provided for applications that received a higher score when one or more violated the policy’s buffer zone.
Some council members had opposing views about the conflicts within the buffer zones, the difference between a provincial or private store and allowing the market to narrow down stores as opposed to the city.
While Zen Canna received 86 out of 100 from the matrix, one of the highest scores awarded by the panel, it was ultimately deferred due to its location, close to the B.C. Cannabis Store. Coun. Campbell Watt said he would prefer to see the recommendation go through for the private business rather than a provincial one.
Coun. Julius Bloomfield and Mayor John Vassilaki, in addition to Watt, would have liked to see all applications supported in order to let the market determine which stores would succeed, but Coun. Katie Robinson was adamant that this was not the “will of the people,” noting that the majority of those surveyed wanted limited stores initially.
Coun. Jake Kimberley expressed that he could not support the motion to approve the staff recommended applications as they included two locations he did not see as fit for retail cannabis stores. These applications were for Green Gaia and Cannabis Cottage.
The deferred applications can come before council again next month, and five more applications are in moving through the process and would be presented to council at the same time. Staff recommended outright denying the deferred applications—Zen Canna, Green Essence, Greenery Cannabis Boutique and Bluewater Cannabis—which would mean sending a letter to the BCLCRB, effectively closing the application. Multiple councillors said they did not want to see the letters sent as staff explained they would then need to start the application process over should they wish to reapply.
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