Five potential pot shop operators are now in line to see if they can turn their green into gold in the City of North Vancouver.
Among them are a government-run cannabis outlet on Lonsdale Avenue, owners of a pub/private liquor store on West First Street and one company on West 14th Street that has already been granted legal licences to operate in the City of Vancouver.
But it will be up to city council to determine who actually gets the first licences for legal cannabis shops on the North Shore.
City staff are set to update council on the application process so far and next steps at Monday night’s regular meeting of council.
Back in November, the city opened up applications for legal pot shops on a “first come, first served” basis. After a flurry of 60 applications received the first day – many of them repeats – the city ended up with 16 applications for three of the four areas where cannabis stores will be allowed.
Those applying for a licence needed to have already gone through the process of applying and paying for a provincial licence and submitting required financial documentation.
After the pot shop operators get approval from the city, they must go through a second round of provincial screening – including financial and security checks –b efore licences are issued.
While more than 200 applications have now been referred to local governments by the province, so far only six licences for private pot shops and one government-run cannabis shop have been issued – three of them in the Lower Mainland.
In the City of North Vancouver, three of the 16 applications were disqualified – two because they had not gone through the initial steps to get a provincial licence and one because operators did not provide documents specifying they had an option to lease at their chosen location.
No pot shops have applied for licences yet in the most eastern area of the city – which includes the Park & Tilford shopping area and former bus depot site on Third Street. One application was received for a store just outside of the boundaries, said Connie Rabold, spokeswoman for the city, and staff plan to seek council’s input on what to do with it.
In Central Lonsdale, the first two applications meeting the city’s criteria were an application for a government store at 1200 Lonsdale and a private store, The Herb Co., at 1717 Lonsdale.
It isn’t clear yet whether the Herb Co. is the same group that operates dispensaries in the City of Vancouver or a separate company.
In Lower Lonsdale, the first two applicants include the Lonsdale Cannabis Co., at 315 Lonsdale, owned by Jun-Bin Koh and Molly Liu of Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam, and First Street Cannabis, at 221 West First St., owned by Sailor Hagar's Pub proprietor Brian Reidlinger and family members. The address is currently the location of the Sailor Hagar’s cold beer and wine store.
Reidlinger declined to comment on the application, saying it was too early in the process.
In the third, western area of the city, City Cannabis Co., owned by Krystian Wetulani – which just received two of the first three licences in the City of Vancouver – is applying for a licence at 725C West 14th St. The location is currently occupied by a Hertz car rental business and a dry cleaners.
Wetulani recently opened a City Cannabis shop on Fraser Street in Vancouver and is set to open a second shop on Robson Street within days.
Just missing the boat in the first round were the former operators of Weeds Glass and Gifts and their new business partners Quizam Media, who signed a deal just prior to marijuana legalization in October that gives Quizam rights to buy existing Weeds stores and draw on the expertise of Weeds staff and management.
A subsidiary of Quizam – Quantum 1 Cannabis, owned by James Rosevear and Russell Rossi – had applied to the city to reopen a legal storefront at the site of the old Weeds store at 820 Marine Dr., but missed being the first in line by a matter of minutes.
Former Weeds store manager Michael Wuest said he’s disappointed that Weeds wasn’t first in line, adding the application was submitted about six minutes after applications opened.
“I thought we had a very good chance at it,”he said. “I thought we had a bit of a track record.”
Wuest said he questions the city’s “first in, first considered” approach, but still hopes there will be other opportunities to open up a Weeds store in North Vancouver in the future.
One application was also received for a store called Seeds and Stone in the location of the former Lotusland shop at 148 East Second St., but was the seventh application received for that area – putting it out of the running, at least for now.
Other applications submitted to the city included ones for stores at 1433 and 1520 Lonsdale, at 115 and 121 East First St., 143 East Second St. and 142 West Third St.
Wuest added one of the reasons nobody submitted an application for a store in the eastern-most area of the city – which includes the Park & Tilford shopping area and the site of the old bus depot on Third Street East – is there is currently no usable space available to lease.
The city application process allowed operators to submit only one application for one area at a time.
Rabold said if someone does submit an application for a shop within that eastern zone that meets the city’s criteria, it will still be considered.
All applications must still go through a rezoning process and public hearing before final approval.
If any of the short-listed five operators withdraw their applications or are rejected, the application next on the short list will be considered.
The last marijuana store flouting provincial rules on the North Shore – the Herban Art Collective on East Esplanade – closed down recently following a legal fight with both the city and the store’s landlord, leaving an absence of retail weed shops on the North Shore – at least for now.