Details are emerging about unrealized pot projects in Saanich, but the municipality says some of them were outside its control.
Courtland Sandover-Sly, president of the BC Independent Cannabis Association, and a partner in Groundwork Consulting, a full-service cannabis consulting firm that specializes in the procurement of federal licenses from Health Canada and retail storefront licenses, said earlier this week that Saanich’s cautious approach towards marijuna has cost it potential business opportunities.
“A number of our clients were interested in pursuing licenses in Saanich,” said Sandover-Sly. “After discussions with staff, and completing their due diligence, they realized that it was simply impossible to pursue their goals in that particular municipality.”
While Sandover-Sly said privacy reasons and ongoing land use applications in other municipalities prevent him from revealing the names of applicants, he nonetheless highlighted some of the relevant facts of the applications.
“There was a greenhouse planned for ALR land off of Wilkinson Road that has moved its facility to Merritt,” he said. “There was another greenhouse planned for ALR, an area beside Mount Doug on Blenkinsop that is now planning to build outside of Nanaimo. There was a cannabis processing facility that wanted to renovate a location on Quadra Street that has since shelved those plans and is looking at space in Alberta. There were two cannabis extraction facilities that were planning to build in Saanich that have now moved to Sooke and Victoria, respectively.”
Sandover-Sly said a number of clients also had plans for expansion into Saanich, but shelved those plans after Saanich banned retail cannabis stores in 2018. (By way of background, Saanich issued the ban in May 2018 to give staff additional time to review legislation and prepare bylaw revisions, now awaiting public input).
Kelsie McLeod, a spokesperson with the District of Saanich, said all pre-application discussions with potential applicants are confidential.
“We are not able to provide information regarding pre-application or informal discussions related to any planning file in order to protect the privacy of all potential applicants,” she said. “An application is public when it is formally submitted. Staff can provide application-related details at that time.”
McLeod also notes that the Agricultural Land Commission — not the municipality — has jurisdiction over the cannabis production on ALR lands.
“The production of non-medical cannabis has been permitted on all agricultural land reserve (ALR) lands throughout Saanich – and the rest of the province – for some time now,” she said. “This is permitted as long as the property owner and operators meet specific Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) requirements.”
McLeod also pointed out that council endorsed the preparation of zoning bylaw amendments that would permit non-medical cannabis stores in all existing commercial zones that currently permit the sale of liquor.
“By endorsing this option, the process to establish a new cannabis retail location will be treated the same as the process to establish a new liquor store,” she said.