Changes to Penticton's cannabis policy could result in up to 14 retail outlets - InfoNews

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Changes to Penticton's cannabis policy could result in up to 14 retail outlets

Penticton City Council agreed to some amendments to the city's retail cannabis policy at yesterday's council meeting, May 21, 2019.
May 22, 2019 - 4:16 PM

PENTICTON - There was more cannabis confusion at City Hall yesterday as the city’s cannabis retail sales policy returned to council for further debate.

At its April 16 meeting city council support was established for four provincial cannabis retail licenses, including three private stores and one government run operation. At the time, council deferred making a decision on four other applications after hearing from the business proponents, who complained a large amount of subjectivity was being used to decide which store to approve.

City planning manager Blake Laven said concerns raised included stores with lower approval ratings being approved due simply to location, and buffering rules that threatened to create monopolies rather than competition.

Laven said most of the applications were “very strong” and included well thought out business strategies and positive branding.

Staff offered council two options:

  • To maintain the status quo of processing existing applications and denying four applications currently deferred, leaving a merit based approach that leave the city open for criticism for possibly allowing weaker applications to proceed based on their location.
  • To amend the policy to a capped system of 14 stores, seven of which would be downtown. This option was seen to provide more competition among stores, and removing an artificial buffer that was resulting in an procedural unfairness.

Councillors had mixed feelings about changing the present policy and Coun. Katie Robinson opted for maintaining the status quo. She expressed concerns council would be straying from recommendations coming out of the public consultation process, claiming “facts were getting muddied pretty quickly.”

Coun. Campbell Watt continued to insist cannabis regulation be treated like any other business.

“I don’t know if Mr. Laven knows the answer to this, I certainly don’t because I just thought about it, but are there any cannabis rehab facilities in Canada?” he asked to laughter from council chambers.

“To me that says, perhaps it’s not as big a scare as some of our public may think it is. For me, this is just another business, and we should allow it to open,” he said, but agreed with maintaining the status quo until one or two stores opened, then rechecking public opinion.

Coun. Julius Bloomfield noted the “best laid plans can fall apart, saying the city’s cannabis process was well planned but didn’t work. He called a cap system more “definitive.”

Coun. Judy Sentes agreed, saying previous council was dealing with uncharted territory when it agreed to the regulations. She said business would dictate who would succeed, opting to support an amended policy, which ultimately passed muster with the rest of council.

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