Smaller pot-shop buffer urged
City councillor wants to reduce required 400-metre separation between retailers
In a move that some say could help level the playing field, Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt is proposing to reduce the minimum distance required between cannabis retailers.
The city had originally set the minimum distance between pot retailers at 200 metres but doubled it to 400 metres because of concerns about having too many shops.
Isitt said he will bring in a proposal to reduce the buffer distance between shops.
“I think reducing the maximum number of metres but also specifying a maximum number of dispensaries, in village centres [would be appropriate]. Generally speaking, I think one would seem reasonable,” Isitt said.
Coun. Geoff Young said a consequence of the 400-metre buffer has been to create mini-monopolies, where the first applicant through the door is now sitting on a valuable piece of real estate.
Under the provincial regime any would-be cannabis retailer must have a site that’s zoned for the purpose before the province will consider their application.
“In essence, what we’ve done under our old policy is virtually filled up the city with the first people who managed to get their applications in,” Young said.
“We now will have a new wave of applications — from what I might call the legitimate retailers — that is those who were unwilling to operate when cannabis was illegal and now are willing to operate,” Young said. “They’re going to arrive and find the city is filled up with these 400-metre circles.”
The councillors’ discussion came as the city takes steps to streamline its pot licensing regulations harmonizing them with new provincial regulations.
Under the new regime, a would-be cannabis retailer submits an application to the province for vetting.
As with liquor licences, the application will be forwarded to a municipality for comment.
So far, seven such applications have been sent to Victoria. The city’s policy will now be to seek written comment from property owners within 100 metres of the application.
Victoria in 2016 became the first municipality in the region to regulate cannabis outlets, requiring pot shops, many of which were already in operation, to obtain rezoning, then apply for a business licence.
The new zoning regulations initially didn’t allow pot shops within 200 metres of a school or another pot shop with the latter provision later amended to 400 metres.
“I think it makes sense to align the city’s regulations with the province’s in terms of the business regulations and reduce city costs on enforcement and allow the province to exercise its responsibility in that area,” Isitt said.
Mayor Lisa Helps expects it will be early January before the first of the applications forwarded to the city will be processed.
At present, there is only one provincially licensed retailer in B.C. — a provincially run cannabis store in Kamloops.
Meanwhile, councillors also agreed to forward an application for rezoning for cannabis retailer Green Hart Health, at 475 Gorge Rd. East to a public hearing, even though it had earlier been turned down for being within 400 metres of another shop.
Staff had recommended the application be declined, but councillors decided to send it to a public hearing.
Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt: “It makes sense to align the city’s regulations with the province’s.”