Business owners wanting to open a cannabis store in Vernon will still have to have their application approved by council after a motion to handover the responsibility to City staff failed to pass earlier this week.
Councillor Kelly Fehr was the only vote in favour of handing over the authority of cannabis store applications to staff at city council's meeting on Monday, July 20, saying the measure would cut red tape by reducing time and resources for both staff and applicants.
Unlike the vast majority of new business applications, Vernon council has the final say on whether a cannabis store can set up or not. Following an influx of applications after legalization in 2018, Vernon council put a cap of six stores in the downtown area. Soon after a two-year moratorium on new stores was put in place citywide. It's set to expire in July 2021.
Currently, Vernon has the highest ratio of cannabis stores per person of any city with a population of more than 20,000 people in B.C.
Fehr said City staff would use the same criteria and framework council had been using when making decisions on new pot stores. He highlighted the RCMP and bylaw had reported that they'd had "zero" issues with cannabis stores.
Coun. Scott Anderson said he had "a real problem" with handing over the authority to staff and that it was council's responsibility to safeguard the interests of the public.
"Until we have some sort of policy about the distance from schools and other (stores), I'm certainly not in favour of relinquishing that power," Anderson said.
Coun. Kari Gares agreed the problem was that the City didn't have a cannabis policy in place and reminded council she had put forward a motion to implement such a policy last year but council had voted against it.
"I understand that it streamlines the process but we need policies," Gares told the meeting.
"I think we've approved every single one that's come before us," Coun. Brian Quiring said. "Because they've checked all the boxes and we've had no ammunition to not allow them."
Ultimately the motion failed.
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