Jordyn Thomson is a reporter with the Penticton Western News. (Robin Grant - Western News)

I’m Just Saying: What’s the hold up with pot shops in Penticton?

Jordyn Thomson is a reporter with the Penticton Western News

As Penticton city council continues to debate and mull over the location of pot shops in the city, it is becoming clear that certain members are more biased about the industry, and cannabis itself, than others.

At the regular meeting on June 18, Coun. Katie Robinson announced that she does not believe the dispensaries should be near residences and said she would not want to live near, or oddly, above one. Her reasoning? She referenced a cloud of smoke so this leads me to assume she thinks customers of the store will disturb residents in the area with cannabis smoke.

Is the assumption that those of us that smoke cannabis are going to promptly light up once we’ve exited the store and then continue to loiter in the area? Does she hold the same concern for people exiting grocery stores, in that they’ll stink up the area by immediately cooking the food they just purchased?

Cannabis is a controlled substance just like alcohol, and last I checked, the majority of people wait until they get home to crack open that six-pack or bottle of wine they just bought. If not, we would see some very rowdy crowds outside of places like JAK’s or Government Street Liquor.

In any discussion relating to pot shop locations, Coun. Jake Kimberley has repeatedly voiced his disapproval of a dispensary that plans to open next to a church.

Why it would matter if a dispensary is located next to a place of worship is beyond me, unless the concern is that churchgoers may stumble into the wrong building and smoke up instead of drinking the communion wine.

The point is, these seem to be outdated views about a legalized industry, and I am sure they are not the views of the majority of residents, who these councillors are supposed to be representing. Over and over again in discussions about safety in the downtown, we heard from council how important business is to the city and that council needs to protect business owners. So where is the support for these businesses, or is it only ones that they prefer?

In my opinion, one of the only council members treating these dispensary applications with common sense is Coun. Campbell Watt, who has stated time and again that the city should let the industry dictate which stores make it and which stores don’t, rather than limiting the amount allowed to run in the first place. Why should we care about how many pot shops there are in Penticton when there are dozens of places you can go to purchase alcohol?

And here’s something else to consider, the City of Penticton only recently established the bylaws about cannabis use and sales within the city, something its had years to get a start on when legalization was first announced. While this may not be the result of the sitting council, this notion of continuing to drag our heels in getting these stores approved is benefiting no one except those that profit from the illegal drug industry.

And this heel-dragging goes all the way up the ladder to the provincial government’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB). The LCRB has referred 345 pot shop application to local governments or Indigenous Nations as of June 18 and has approved a measly 24 with conditions, and only 34 have had their licenses issued.

B.C. is missing out on a huge piece of the cannabis industry pie, and the jobs and profits that come along with it. It’s time to get over the preconceived notions about cannabis and its use, and time to get on with business! I’m just saying.

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