District of North Vancouver has opted to just say no to a new cannabis retailer at Capilano Road near Marine Drive – but some council members are showing an interest in liberalizing the rules on where pot shops may do business.
The applicants had hoped to open the store at 1761 Capilano Rd., at the outskirt of the budding Lions Gate Village neighbourhood.
But district planning staff recommended council reject the proposal, citing the cannabis policy adopted in 2019, which recommended that council not agree to more than two stores in the Lions Gate/Marine Drive corridor area. The previous council already approved two stores on Marine.
That was reason enough for the majority on council who voted to reject the application on Nov. 21.
“We need to have compelling reasons when we don’t follow our own policy. I don’t necessarily see that here,” said Coun. Herman Mah.
Coun. Jim Hanson said he didn’t have any particular grievance with the applicants or their proposal but he would prefer to see that property put to other uses.
“There must be another location in the district, which is farther away from other stores that are already in place. We need to look for other types of commercial and retail development to bring into this region,” he said.
Mike Little acknowledged the district’s criteria make it difficult for cannabis retailers to open up shop, but he said he’d rather look at tweaking the rules rather than make an exception.
“I still agree with the general principles that the council laid out. I do recognize that it is a challenge to find commercial spaces that meet all of the criteria, but I’m not going to be supportive of adding an additional one within the zone at this time,” he said.
Coun. Jordan Back, however, said the application would be a good fit and was worthy of an exception from the existing guidelines.
“I do think that there is a demand for it and we have not really had any issues, from what I understand, from the ones that have been approved and are open,” he said.
Coun. Lisa Muri said she was once more critical of applicants who wanted to bend council’s bylaws but community concerns brought up in the early days of legalization have failed to materialize.
“We wanted to be able to have a gentle sort of approach to allowing cannabis stores in the district to see what kind of challenges there would be and what issues would arise,” she said. “I think it’s becoming more acceptable – the use of cannabis in the community now that the regulations have changed and that the stores are opening up.”
Muri said she would like to review the district’s 2019 cannabis policy.
The vote to reject the pot shop passed with Mah, Little, Hanson and Coun. Betty Forbes in favour. Muri, Back and Coun. Catherine Pope voted against the rejection.
The two stores already approved for Marine Drive in the district – a 1923 Cannabis Co. at 1199 Marine Dr. and a BC Cannabis Store at 1461 Marine Dr. are expected to open in the coming months.
District staff said they would monitor those locations for any issues or concerns and report back to council. They also confirmed that two currently operating stores – a Muse Cannabis at Dollarton Plaza and North Shore Cannabis on Main Street near the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing have not resulted in calls for bylaw or police enforcement.