Keremeos council threw their support behind a cannabis retail store Monday night at the regular council meeting.
Council underwent an extensive public consult process, which included an online survey, about a proposed recreational cannabis retail store at 615 7th Avenue.
Quantum 1, a division of Vancouver based Quizam Media Corporation, submitted an application for a provincial cannabis dispensary license for a location in Keremeos earlier this year.
“I think it is a legal substance now and we need to deal with it just as we deal with any other product,” Mayor Manfred Bauer said. “These stores are the most strictly regulated, much more regulated than any other business. We’ve already had public comments from our RCMP officers that they don’t see an issue in regards to public safety.”
Keremeos is on track to have a recreational cannabis store before other larger communities in the South Okanagan and Similkameen including Penticton and Osoyoos.
“This is really the very beginning of new era of a substance that just became legalized and we have to be careful where we want to go with this,” Bauer said during a lengthy discussion that mainly revolved around hours of operation for the store.
“There isn’t a lot of experience out there in terms of small communities having these things… There’s nothing in Penticton yet. They haven’t made up their minds. We’ll probably be legal before Osoyoos and Penticton.”
The village received 83 responses from residents about the application, 51 were in favour of the application while 32 were not.
Those not in favour cited concerns over public safety, proximity to the pocket park and expressed thoughts that the proposed hours from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. were too long.
“A lot of the negative comments going down that road and the one guy that wrote that said, ‘oh, I caught someone outside smoking crystal meth,’ well it’s already here so the pot shop is not going to bring more. I think the only thing that concerned me was the hours and I think they should move back,” councillor Jeremy Evans said.
Bauer said the issue of smoking in the pocket park will be handled through enforcement if needed. Several years ago the village put in a no smoking bylaw in all parks. RCMP or bylaw officers can hand out tickets for smoking where not allowed.
All of council stated they were in favour of the store, but the majority questioned the hours of operation.
Jason Wiebe was the only councillor to voice support for the store to be open till 9 p.m. while the rest of council supported similar hours to the liquor store.
“From what I can tell the business model is that they hope to have commuters that are leaving Vancouver and coming through Keremeos that will stop. Having it close at 7 p.m. might be a hinder to that model,” Wiebe said.
Bauer said it wasn’t council’s concern to worry about the store’s business model, but rather to focus on public safety and the issue of enforcement if needed.
“They’re very much like the liquor store. They do their hours to close at 6 p.m. Anyone wanting liquor after 6 p.m. has to go Cawston or wherever. Our consideration is the public and enforcement. The later this is open the harder it is enforce issues like smoking in the pocket park or other issues.”
Council settled on recommending the store be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.
The province is not obligated to go by any of the recommendations provided by Keremeos council but will take them in to consideration when deciding whether or not to approve the recreational cannabis retail license.
A representative from the company told council they were fine with operating in those hours and that when applying they went for the maximum number of open hours, and would gauge what made sense when the business opened.
If approved for a license, the retail store will most likely be the only one in Keremeos as council approved a bylaw in 2018 limiting where stores could be including proximity to schools and libraries.
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