Politicians trying to nip new Okanagan Falls pot shops in the bud

Regional directors in the South Okanagan are trying to figure out how to prevent any more retail cannabis outlets from opening in Okanagan Falls.

A moratorium was proposed for cannabis stores in Area D of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, but directors aren’t sure if they can make those changes from the regional level of government.

“The Liquor Control Board gets the cannabis applications,” CAO Bill Newell explained during a meeting today, Sept. 23. “We’re a referral agency in that chain.”

Since a comment is required from the local government before the Liquor Control Board will approve an application, the regional district has some leverage over the matter.

“We could simply put a policy in place saying we’ll always respond just no comment,” Newell said.

READ MORE: B.C. cannabis sales doubled in 2020, but Okanagan retail market still tough

That policy would not constitute a moratorium, but would provide a similar outcome. However, applicants will have the right to appeal if their bid was rejected because no comment was provided by the regional district.

“What applicants are going to hear is that if there’s a no comment, you have the right to appeal,” said Area D director Ron Obirek.

Obirek saw the staff recommendation as a “hybrid.” He said it brings the district one step closer to a moratorium but does not achieve the full goal. While the policy change would make the process slower, staff time and taxpayers’ money would still have to be spent on appeals.

The staff report acknowledges how the policy change would not offer a true moratorium, as it could be open to legal challenges. 

“While this may seem unnecessary as well as an inefficient use of available resources if the result will always be a denial by the board, it would be prudent that the board “consider” each application and deny it, rather than refuse to consider, or decide in advance to deny every application through a 'moratorium' and potentially have such a decision open to challenge,” reads the report.

But in the end the issue was deferred back to staff for a second time.

READ MORE: New cannabis-infusing facility looking for approval in Kamloops

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