Cannabis retail licensing fees and buffer zones between outlets will be reconsidered in the new year.
Council unanimously agreed to a staff recommendation to bring forward bylaw amendments to the Jan. 24 regular meeting of council. The amendments to the existing bylaws would establish a 500-metre proximity buffer prohibition on retail cannabis stores from other retail cannabis shops, allow council to make recommendations and comments on provincial applications for a retail cannabis shop licence in response to referrals from the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, and there would be a lapse provision for applications that are not active for a period of 12 months.
A fourth amendment in the recommendation – reducing application and licensing fees associated with cannabis retail stores – was removed from Jan. 24 and, instead, will be added to the Jan. 10, 2022 regular meeting for consideration, a move made at the request of Coun. Kari Gares.
“We probably should have had some of these considerations done some time ago and I’m OK now waiting (until January),” said Gares. “I want to make sure we get it right and I don’t want to put more work on your (staff) plate.
“This is a great step in the right direction that we’re heading on the same path. I like to see these retailers have successes and this is the proper steps in my opinion.”
Planner Matt Faucher said there are currently 13 retail cannabis stores operating in the City of Vernon with a 14th just recently opened at the Fruit Union Plaza.
When cannabis was legalized in 2018, Faucher said a “significant amount of excitement was created amongst cannabis enthusiasts and entrepreneurs to establish a business in the young legal market.”
The excitement led to more than 20 applications to the city for cannabis retail stores in a short period of time. Council passed a resolution to place a two-year moratorium on accepting new applications which cooled off the new applications. The moratorium ended in July of this year.
“I’m in favour of the direction we’ve gone but there may be too many,” said Coun. Scott Anderson. “But the market will sort that out.”
Added Gares: “From my perspective the role of the city is that we don’t have an accumulation of cannabis stores. There is regulation around what and how they can sell, it’s all the same. The only thing that differentiates these stores is service levels, at the end of the day.
“If we have 10 stores isolated in the same area, look at their business practices and 50 per cent potentially fail, we’ll be looking at some very empty commercial places.”