Smaller pot-shop buf­fer urged

City coun­cil­lor wants to re­duce re­quired 400-me­tre sep­a­ra­tion be­tween re­tail­ers

Times Colonist - - The Capital / B.c. - BILL CLEVERLEY

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.”

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