Victoria councillors have supported lowering the annual fee to run a cannabis retail store in the city, but the new amount remains much higher than what city staff recommended.
A move to drop the city’s business licensing fee for cannabis retail shops from $5,000 to $3,500 in 2022 and then to $2,000 starting next year was supported by councillors at Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting.
Staff had recommended lowering the annual fee to $280, an amount equal to what liquor stores pay. The $5,000 figure was needed to fund a bylaw officer responsible for enforcing the city’s licensing and operation regulations. In 2019, council directed staff to review the fee for cannabis retailers once the province could enforce its own licensing and operating regulations – which it now can.
Coun. Ben Isitt wanted the current fee to remain until council could see all costs incurred by the city connected to the sale and consumption of cannabis. A motion that would have had staff look into this was voted down.
Council approved other recommendations to repeal the city’s own bylaw that regulated cannabis retailers, while amending the business license bylaw to require cannabis shops to ensure any street-facing, ground-floor windows are not blocked by translucent or opaque material, artwork, posters, shelving, display cases or other elements.
The shops will be able to implement some window art, as long as it doesn’t significantly block visibility. City staff said this change would support public safety, allow stores to beautify their windows like liquor and other retail stores do and support place making objectives such as active land uses.
With a repeal of its own cannabis retailers regulations approved, staff noted issues associated with air filtration, staffing levels, hours of operation and advertising to minors will still be covered by a mix of provincial and federal regulations.
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