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Courtenay council nails down cannabis retail policy

The City of Courtenay now has a better handle on where cannabis retailers can set up shop.

At their meeting on Sept. 4, council adopted the Storefront Cannabis Retailers Policy, which provides guidelines on where cannabis retail stores will be allowed in the city.

According to the policy, cannabis retailers should be at least 300 metres from schools and playgrounds, and at least 400 m from other cannabis retail stores. These minimum distances are in line with the results of a survey released to the public in July. In total, 549 people completed the survey.

However, though there was support for a minimum distance from daycares, this was excluded from the policy as daycares can be a challenge to locate and are more transient.

Cannabis retail stores will also only be allowed in existing retail zones, which director of development services, Ian Buck, says is to prevent these businesses from expanding into residential or industrial areas.

Coun. David Frisch expressed concern about the minimum allowable distance between cannabis retail stores, saying that 400 m takes up most of downtown, so multiple cannabis retailers may not be able to set up shop in the City’s core.

Buck says the provincial distance requirements between liquor stores is 1 kilometre, but they left cannabis guidelines open to each municipality.

“The idea of limiting the number and having distances is trying to avoid the sort of red light district type of environment,” he said.

However, Buck emphasized that these numbers are just guidelines and the policy leaves the potential to consider each application on a case by case basis.

“The key components of the policy, and just as a reminder to council, it doesn’t bind any future decision making,” said Buck. “Rest assured that on an individual basis based on concerns that come up in the neighbourhood, the opportunity is still there and council is not bound by any of these numbers.”

The number of permissible cannabis retail stores has also been increased from five to six to allow for “government run retail stores.”

Council will have the ability to restrict the number of permissible cannabis retail outlets or even change the designation and zoning of properties if a business is deemed unsuccessful.

In the coming months, city staff will prepare a report on regulating the business aspects of cannabis retail stores, including hours of operation and introducing a business licensing fee.
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Jolene Rudisuela

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