Despite its apparent reputation, Vancouver Island remains behind other regions of the province when it comes to issuing marijuana retail licenses.
According to the latest available statistics from the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB), the region of Vancouver Island, Powell River and Gulf Islands is home to six licensed non-medicinal private retail stores. That is three less than the Greater Vancouver and Sunshine Coast region, and 12 less than the Interior and North. That region also leads all regions with paid, complete applications (221), paid but incomplete applications (23) and applications referred to local government or Indigenous Nations (169).
By comparison, the region of Vancouver Island, Powell River and Gulf Islands has recorded 108 paid applications, 16 paid but incomplete applications and 78 referrals to local government or Indigenous Nations.
Overall, 34 private retail locations exist across British Columbia. Of six licenses issued for Vancouver Island, Powell River and Gulf Islands, four list addresses in the City of Victoria (pop: 85,792, 2016 census) and two in Port Hardy (pop: 4,132, 2016 census).
Saanich, the largest municipality on Vancouver Island, has yet to license a retail outlet. This said, two of the four Victoria license holders operate close to Saanich’s municipal borders. The Original Farm lists 3055 Scott St. near Saanich’s panhandle as its operating address, while Clarity Cannabis lists 1-603 Gorge Rd. East (just off Harriet Road) as its address.
Saanich council earlier this year endorsed a staff recommendation to permit the retail of recreational marijuana in areas already permitted for liquor stores. Staff have been drafting 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.
A prominent industry leader has said earlier this year that the new rules have underscored 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,” said Courtland Sandover-Sly, president of BC Independent Cannabis Association.
“They are late to the party and, of course, have made things needlessly difficult again,” he said.
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.