More losers than winners as Penticton council decides pot dispensary policy

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PENTICTON - Penticton city council has approved only two of the seven applications for temporary use permits to operate marijuana dispensaries in the city's downtown.

Green Essence and Okanagan Cannabinoid Therapy were approved for six month temporary permits to operate marijuana dispensaries following two and a half hours of debate over the subject last night, Dec.6.

Okanagan Cannabinoid Therapy had not previously been included in the city’s scope of dispensaries prior to last night’s review of applications. City planning manager Blake Laven said as a non-profit, the business wouldn’t fall under regular business regulations and would probably be difficult to shut down.

Green Essence, seen by council as a responsible operation who abided by previous decisions of council, was also approved for a permit

Downtown Penticton Association president Leigh Follestad told council his group simply could not support illegal activity of any kind in the downtown core. A survey of its 350 members resulted in 108 responses, of which 62 per cent were not in favour of allowing the dispensaries to operate downtown.

Council debate centred around the issues of permit length, potential health issues from allowing an unregulated industry to operate within the city, and regulation of those businesses denied a permit.

A motion to reduce permit lengths from 18 to six months passed as council looked at the potential for federal legislation on marijuana to be introduced within the shorter time frame. A motion to wait for federal legislation was denied.

Coun. Helena Konanz said she felt she wasn’t qualified to choose between applicants in terms of the professionalism of their operations, a sentiment echoed by Coun. Judy Sentes.

“How do I choose as a councillor? It breaks my heart, but the only way for me is to deny," Sentes said.

Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said he was “conflicted” but felt the need to try and get ahead of the issue, noting it was an emotional one because of the potential health benefits involved.

Council’s decisions weren’t aided by Coun. Tarik Sayeed’s absence, which created an equal number of councillors, leading to a couple of split votes before council agreed to Coun. Picton’s motion.

Picton moved council grant six month permits only to those who have “shown to be community partners, willing to comply” with previous city edicts.

Council denied a permit to Herbal Green. Mayor Andrew Jakubeit noting the facility, which had been operating in the city for the past two years as the Russian- Finnish Cafe, had been most active in the media defying council’s requests to shut down.

Avitas Pharmacos/Be Kind Okanagan was also denied a permit, even though the operation was praised by several members of council for its professionalism and willingness to follow the rules. It’s proximity to Carmi Elementary School at less than the 200 metres required in the temporary use conditions forced council to deny its application.

Power Greens, Buds Medical Cannabis Products and Okanagan Cannabis Solutions Society were also denied permits.

Planning manager Blake Laven said future city policy would not support further applications, but noted nothing can be done to deny operators from continuing to apply if they wished.


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