A leader in the provincial cannabis industry predicts proposed municipal rules will encourage some marijuana retail in Saanich, but nonetheless questions Saanich’s approach. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ron Ward)

Cannabis industry leader says Saanich letting revenue go up in smoke

BC Independent Cannabis Association president says cautious approach has cost Saanich

A leader of the provincial cannabis industry questions Saanich’s new proposed regime for the regulation of marijuana retail.

Courtland Sandover-Sly, president of BC Independent Cannabis Association, said new rules announced earlier this week underscore the reluctance of the municipality when it comes to marijuana.

“Saanich has insisted, and continues to insist, on making things extraordinarily difficult for cannabis cultivators and retailers,” he said.

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He offered these assessment after Saanich council endorsed a staff recommendation to permit the retail of recreational marijuana in areas already permitted for liquor stores. Staff are currently crafting bylaw revisions that will pave the way for recreational marijuana sales in 18 selected locations around the municipality that already permit liquor sales. The revisions will then go to a public hearing after having received first reading.

“The passing of these new bylaws show that they have finally come around in some capacity, although this is certainly not a proud moment for Saanich,” said Sandover-Sly. “They are late to the party and, of course, have made things needlessly difficult again.”

He acknowledged Saanich’s new rules (if approved) would allow for some cannabis retail storefronts to finally appear in Saanich, but “only in a limited capacity” where liquor stores already exist.

Staff also presented but recommended against two other options: location-by-location rezoning for marijuana retail with a preference for designated centres and villages; and recreational marijuana retail in commercial zones that permit retail sales of goods and services (but not liquor).

Sandover-Sly said Saanich council should have taken a bolder approach.

“I’m not sure who rules the roost in Saanich — the elected officials or the municipal staff?” he asked. “This was a time when real leadership could have been effective, but instead we once again have staff leading these councillors around by the nose.”

Sandover-Sly said Saanich’s reluctance has hurt the municipality based on his familiarity of the industry.

(In May 2018 Saanich passed a “full” prohibition on the sale, production and distribution of recreational cannabis until staff had an opportunity to review federal and provincial legislation.)

RELATED: Update: Saanich puts lid on future pot sales for now

“There have been dozens of millions of dollars of investment capital that have walked away from projects in Saanich,” he said. “Saanich has made it repeatedly clear that they are closed for business to cannabis. Saanich has made it obvious that cannabis money is no good there.”

Saanich councillors have defended their approach, but Coun. Susan Brice also acknowledged that Saanich had been acting in its typically cautious manner.


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