Critics concerned about the number of cannabis stores in downtown Vernon as the city considers funding for two more – Okanagan


How many cannabis stores are there too many in downtown Vernon?

It’s a perennial question that the Vernon, BC City Council will grapple with again on Monday when it decides whether to add two more private cannabis stores to open on 30 Ave.

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City officials recommend that the council support both proposals.

In one application, Liht Organics would open a cannabis store in the basement of a commercial building on the 3300 block on 30 Ave.

The location is less than 50 yards from Hive Cannabis, which is already operating down the street and defying its proposed competitor.

“I think Vernon already has more than enough retail cannabis stores,” Hive Cannabis’ Neil Rockerbie said in an email to the city.

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“While competition is healthy, the viability of existing retail stores on this scale is already stretched.”

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Five others also wrote to City Hall to express some level of concern.

“I’m not against small businesses in the region as I also support community growth. Besides that [the number of] The per capita cannabis stores in the Vernon area, especially downtown, are extremely high, ”wrote Taylor Atkinson.

“If this is the only option for the landlord, I support their need to generate income. However, there should be another tenant who could contribute to the community in a more productive way. “

The executive director of the nearby Okanagan Valley College of Massage Therapy was one of those who expressed concern about the proposal.

In an email to the city council, Roxanne Petruk spoke out in favor of “more family-friendly retailers” in the city center.

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“Several downtown cannabis retailers give the impression of a ‘downtown drug alley’ and, unlike families and tourism, attract people loitering in the drug culture,” Petruk wrote.

However, a Liht Organics associate, Tylor Herold, argues that “free enterprise should dictate the economy,” and it would be unfair not to let your business compete after the business has invested so much in renovations.

Herold said the company could have been one of the first to open, but mistakenly believed that its space had to be fully compliant and turnkey before the company applied for a license.

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These renovations were completed, but the delay resulted in the store being put on hold as the city limited the number of downtown cannabis uses that could evolve.

“Because we have invested so much and kept our spaces compliant in the hope of being accepted, we are now viewed as ‘another pot shop’ in a saturated area, which is certainly unfair,” Herold wrote in an email to Global News.

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Herold said the group of owners is local, the store on the ground floor has limited floor space, and those who are not underage and not authorized to purchase cannabis are not allowed to enter the store.

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“The stigma surrounding cannabis has advanced significantly in Canada and around the world, and we feel that our business is not being treated on the same terms as other retail sectors,” added Herold.

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The second suggestion is for a separate retail store a few blocks down on the 3100 block on 30 Ave.

The location is what the city refers to as an “unauthorized cannabis dispensary,” which was operational prior to legalization in 2018.

However, a city report on the proposal states that the owner of the previous cannabis business was not behind the application for the new business.

The city received a message from a neighboring company opposed to the second proposed deal, but the nearby retailer failed to elaborate on why it doesn’t want a cannabis retailer as a neighbor.

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Vernon has struggled with regulating cannabis stores for years.

Even before recreational cannabis was legalized, the city had a very active cannabis retail industry in the black and gray market in October 2018.

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However, around the time of legalization, most stores have already closed their closings pending license approval under the new regulations for the sale of legal cannabis.

With a fresh slate, the city decided to limit the number of cannabis stores in the business improvement areas in downtown Vernon to six.

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However, those six spots for downtown cannabis stores were quickly filled by other applicants.

Motions to the council this week were received almost two years ago in May 2019, the city said, but have been withheld until there is room under the cap.

You are now moving forward because one of the six originally proposed stores is down and another is no longer in the restricted area.

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Although other applications for cannabis stores in downtown Vernon are in the regulatory pipeline, only two business licenses have been granted.

In total, the city has issued 13 business licenses for cannabis stores across the city.

This spring, the city council is also expected to consider changing the statutes that would limit the number of cannabis stores within 500 meters of each other.

Both of the proposed stores are located 150 meters from another licensed cannabis store.

Even if the stores are supported by the city council on Monday to continue the regulatory process, they still need licenses from the province and city before they can open.