Victoria’s first dispensary heading to public hearing

It's something Alex Robb has been hoping and waiting for, for the past several months.

It’s something Alex Robb has been hoping and waiting for, for the past several months.

But now, after gathering the necessary documentation, including criminal record checks, authorization from landlords, and reviews by security companies, for Trees Dispensary to apply for rezoning and a business licence with the City of Victoria, Robb’s wish has been granted.

Last week, mayor and councillors voted to send the first medical marijuana storefront to public hearing, since new regulations were adopted last year to stop the booming sector.

“We’re very pleased to be the very first dispensary in Victoria that’s going to be having a public hearing related to the rezoning,” said Robb, community liaison with Trees Dispensary located at 546 Yates St.

“It’s been a long haul and a serious effort to get the rezoning and business licence applications in.”

Over the past few years, 35 medical marijuana shops have sprouted up illegally, prompting the city to take action and regulate the growing industry. In September, council approved a number of rules including restrictions on age and hours of operation, no on-site consumption and a ban on advertising.

Dispensaries must also obtain a $5,000 business licence and pass a $7,500 rezoning process to operate legally.

Trees Dispensary can check a number of those off the list, but next is the public hearing, necessary for the rezoning. It’s something Robb is looking forward to as it’s a step closer to cannabis regulation — something he believes is the best way to respond to the province’s opioid crisis.

While he acknowledged there will be some public opposition, especially since Trees is the first dispensary to go to public hearing under the new rules, Robb believes there will be more voices speaking in support of the business than against.

“I expect that 99 per cent of the people coming to the public hearing will be speaking in support of our rezoning application,” said Robb, adding he has also submitted applications for the other three stores Trees operates and is hopeful they will be approved by the summer as well.

“However, I also expect there will be some negative voices. This is the first public hearing of any cannabis rezoning in the city, so naturally it’s going to draw the people who don’t want to see the city move in this direction.”

Trees Dispensary wasn’t the only one to submit an application. Pure Releaf at 510-512 Yates Street also applied for rezoning a month-and-a-half after Trees. However, since the two dispensaries are only 71 metres apart, it’s in contradiction of the city’s policy of having storefront cannabis retailers at least 200 metres from one another.

The policy, which works on a first-come first-served basis, is meant to prevent an “undesirable concentration of storefront cannabis retailers,” according to a staff report.

“The major risk is that we’re gong to be creating a very lucrative form of business licence. The small buffer zone (of 200 metres) addresses that,” said Coun. Ben Isitt during a Thursday meeting.

Pure Releaf’s application has been deferred until Trees’ proceeds to public hearing.

Since the regulations have been put in place, the city has issued 12 tickets, four for retailers not having a licence, seven for onsite consumption and one for being open outside permitted hours.

Of the 35 dispensaries in operation, 16 have applied for rezoning and 29 have applied for business licences.


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