LAKE COUNTRY - What looked like a slam dunk for the first cannabis retail store in the Okanagan has turned into a narrow rejection.
District of Lake Country council rejected a bylaw variance bid at their meeting last night, dashing the chances of a cannabis retail shop opening in the area before the new year.
Compass Cannabis had hoped to open Starbuds (the retail division of their company) at Turtle Bay Crossing this month. They'd operated a medical cannabis clinic at the spot for months and they'd planned to convert it into a retail store. Council's decision has put those plans on permanent hold.
Currently, a daycare operates at Turtle Bay crossing. Dispensaries and cannabis retail stores need to be separate from daycares and schools by a certain distance. At the council meeting last night, Dec. 4, councillors discussed a bylaw variance which would have reduced the minimum required "buffer" distance between the daycare and the proposed dispensary from 400 metres to 150 metres (the distance is a direct aerial line).
After a back-and-forth debate, council settled on a 4-3 split against the bylaw variance. Coun. Penny Gambell voted to deny the bylaw variance.
"Buffers are there to protect children," Gambell said. "I didn't hear any rationale for changing [the bylaw]. There are other places in our community for [stores] to locate."
Gambell added that the council still supports cannabis retail stores operating outside of buffer zones in Lake Country.
Coun. Todd McKenzie, who voted to support the bylaw variance, said Main Street in downtown Lake Country could be a possible location for a future cannabis retail store.
"We have a lot of work to do if we're going to accommodate these stores," he said.
In a written statement, Daniel Winer, director of marketing for Starbuds, said his company is disappointed with the council's decision. He said his company is planning to go in front of council on Dec. 18 to discuss the matter further.
"We believe the decision was made due to some misinformation around cannabis safety," Winer said in the statement. "We hope to discuss our focus on fighting the stigma around cannabis."
— This story was updated at 2:43 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018 to include reaction from Starbuds.
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