Sooke council nearly did an about-face at its regular meeting on Monday night as two councillors spoke in opposition to the move to include a fourth cannabis shop in Sooke.
On March 11, councillors heard a presentation by Westcoast Adventure College asking to be considered for the fourth location. That presentation included plans for an educational component and a profit-sharing plan, where the municipality would receive cash that could be directed to cannabis education.
But although council unanimously supported the concept at the time, two councillors raised concerns about the change on Monday.
Coun. Al Beddows was unable to attend the March 11 meeting and was surprised when he returned to Sooke to find a fourth location was being considered.
“What threw me was that we’d had a big, long discussion about keeping it at three stores. I go away for a week, and it turns into four,” Beddows said.
“I am a little taken aback and I don’t see the correlation between what they (Westcoast Adventure College) propose and the educational component.”
Beddows was joined by Coun. Ebony Logins in opposing the move to allow the fourth location.
Although Logins had been present at the last meeting and had voted for the motion to allow consideration of both the new outlet and the educational approach touted by the applicant, she now voiced a radically different position.
“It makes me physically ill to think about a business providing medical advice to move people from opioids to marijuana,” said Logins.
“I can’t morally support this on behalf of the people struggling with addictions and on behalf of our youth I don’t agree with the educational approach (put forward by the applicant).”
Councillors Megan McMath and Tony St. Pierre were joined by Mayor Maja Tait in taking a more market-driven approach to the issue.
“It’s a business and our job isn’t to show a preference for one business over another,” said McMath, who was echoed by St. Pierre’s point that it was not the responsibility of the council to get into giving an advantage to one business over another.
Coun. Jeff Bateman also stayed consistent with his previous position, advising Beddows to review the video of the last council meeting to get some perspective of what was discussed and pointing out that it’s already been established that a municipality cannot legally impose a moratorium on cannabis sales.
“In the end, it will come down to competition … to the ambience and the service provided. They’ll all be selling the same product so let the marketplace decide,”Tait said.
“We’ll see at the public hearing on this bylaw, but I haven’t sensed any widespread community opposition.”
In the end, the motions to allow for consideration of the fourth outlet at a public hearing was passed with only Logins voting in opposition.