Ten cannabis retailers vying to open stores in the District of West Vancouver will have a chance to pitch to council next month why they should be the ones selling pot in the district.
On May 31, 2021, council approved an interim non-medical cannabis retail policy and directed staff to bring forward all cannabis retail applications received by June 30, 2021, in a batch for council's consideration.
There are 10 would-be cannabis merchants who applied for temporary use permits for cannabis retail. Of the applications filed in the district, six are in Ambleside, two are in Horseshoe Bay, one is in Dundarave and one is on Clyde Avenue, east of Park Royal.
Avenue Cannabis, Quantum Cannabis, Nimbus Cannabis, BC Cannabis, Inspired Cannabis, Happy Isle Cannabis, Weather Cannabis, NV Cannabis, Cannabis on Clyde, have all submitted applications.
All the applications meet the district's criteria. However, the policy only allows one in each shopping area, for a maximum of four in West Vancouver.
At the Oct. 18 general council meeting, council considered a number of options on how to decide which businesses should secure a location.
Most councillors were of the belief that the fairest way to go about choosing would be for all the applicants to present their plans at one council meeting.
“Regardless of who an individual councillor chooses, I do feel that we are obligated to listen to all, for various reasons. They all made an application,” councillor Bill Soprovich said, adding that council had to keep an open mind.
“I think that from a legal standpoint and in every other way that’s the proper thing to do.”
Coun. Craig Cameron agreed council had “to be scrupulously fair when it's dealing with private interests.”
“We have to be absolutely even-handed and open and transparent,” he said. “We have to give everyone a fair hearing and so that's what I’m in favour of.”
Mayor Mary-Ann Booth, who put forward a substantive motion to consider all applicants in the same meeting, added that she wasn’t comfortable with the “first come, first serve” option because the district did not state that’s how it would be at the outset and a lot of money was at stake for applicants.
“I can tell you that the fact we have 10 applications means that people think this is a serious business opportunity,” she said. “We, of course, will be enforcing our interim bylaw, which requires distances from schools, and also the maximum number per commercial area, etc. So, there are requirements around locations and proximities.”
Booth said she’d also like staff to look into requesting applicants to make a financial contribution to the costs for the district to administer the program.
“[The City of] Langford is getting between $30,000 and $40,000 annually from each of their temporary use permits to cover policing costs, enforcement costs, even the cost of administering this,” she said. “The federal government is getting all the tax revenue and we're doing all the work, I don't see Prime Minister Trudeau anywhere vetting all these applications, so I think that it's fair and reasonable.”
While the majority of councillors were in support of the motion, Coun. Sharon Thompson voted against it, stating it would have been more appropriate to move ahead with only two temporary use permits from one of the earlier applicants.
“When our first group of proponents applied, they weren’t told that there would be an extension of a month, which brought in extra competition,” she said.
“Now, we're talking about this Langford policy and that's something we haven't even discussed as council … whether we feel that's appropriate to inflict upon people who've made all these applications and invested all this time and money to date and are being asked to do so continually.”
She said she regretted council opening up applications for another month.
“I think that's just put us in an awkward position,” she said.
“This is a temporary use permit, and this is about exploring how a cannabis shop fits and works in our community. And no matter how we move forward, if we have this hearing and we listen to all 10 applicants, the fact is that they've already done public presentations that we could have participated in. The fact is, they are all recorded and online for us to watch. So, to ask staff and council to invest more time, when they could simply watch the presentations, and see the public input, and read staff reports on our own time and not waste all this other time, just seems ridiculous to me.”
All 10 applications will have the chance to present and be considered at the Dec.15 council meeting.
Prior to the meeting, district staff will send notifications to all adjacent properties and public notices in the newspaper before the December meeting.
Elisia Seeber is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.