Two cannabis dispensaries in Victoria received municipal approval, while three more are snagged on technical difficulties before receiving a letter of endorsement from the city to the province.
In a committee of the whole meeting, council members discussed sending a letter of support to the province for five businesses, the last step before the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) gives final approval and the city can issue a business license.
The first dispensary under discussion, Cloud Nine Collective at 778 Fort St., received no push-back from council following an overall positive public notification process. Out of 485 letters of notification sent out to neighbours, the city received four letters, two of which were opposed to the idea. The motion to recommend the dispensary passed unanimously.
The motion endorsing the Clarity Cannabis location at 603 Gorge Rd. East was also approved.
However, the Clarity Cannabis at 851 Johnson St. received a more critical eye, after it came to the attention that the business had been operating without a business license for two years, for which it received no fines. Clarity Cannabis did receive two, $500 fines, however these had to do with inadequate staffing and a need to upgrade the building’s filtration system.
“So, their penalty for operating without a business license for two or three years has been $1,000?,” asked Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “That to me seems woefully unfair to those who’ve been following the rules… We should get the operator to do the work before, and then come back to council to endorse them to the province.”
Council added an amendment to the motion to only recommend the business to the province if the business acts in alignment with municipal bylaws and permits. The amendment was added to the conditions for all five businesses.
“If they’re in compliance, the letter goes off tomorrow,” Helps said.
The Original Farm at 1402 Douglas St. also hit a snag after the Heritage Advisory Panel turned down a heritage alteration permit to the business. Farm is situated in a heritage building which does not permit permanent window coverings, while the LCRB requires that the sight-line into dispensaries is blocked so people can’t watch cannabis transactions.
“What if they don’t need a heritage alteration permit?” Helps asked, proposing alternative options such as a heavy usage of plants to block the windows.
Council voted to leave the wording of required changes for sight-line revisions to be a bit less restrictive, simply stating that they would endorse the business as long as Farm obtained a heritage alteration permit, if required. Both the Heritage Advisory Panel and cannabis retail inspectors would need to agree on a solution.
Overall, however, neither Coun. Ben Isitt nor Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe approved of the dispensary due to its central location.
“Seeing how prominent the location is I’m just not convinced that liquor dispensaries or cannabis dispensaries are appropriate in a very prominent downtown location,” Isitt said. “While generally I do support reasonable access to cannabis, I think with the decision in front of me I don’t support a provincial licence being issued at this location.”
The approval of the Original Farm’s other location at 3055A Scott St. also met a delay after Isitt pointed out that this location never had a public hearing in relation to the rezoning process. The business had, however, had public consultation in regards to the dispensary, as required by the LCRB approval process.
The business was initially able to forgo a public consultation on rezoning due to its existing land use contract. Council felt that resulting issues, including illegal parking in residential zones surrounding the business and the close proximity to Lansdowne middle school needed to be discussed.
“Due to a land-use loophole the business was able to open and develop something of a customer base, employees and business investments,” Isitt said. “I think that for me I’d like to give the applicant the opportunity of public comment… my mind is wide open in terms of if this is supportable or not.”
After this decision was made, the Original Farm put up a petition advocating for the re-opening of the Hillside location.
At this point, the Cloud Nine Collective and the 603 Gorge Rd. E. Clarity Cannabis location are front runners to be the first legally operating cannabis dispensary in Victoria.
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