Courtenay council has approved second reading of a zoning amendment to allow a cannabis retail store at Driftwood Mall. Residents will have a chance to voice their opinions before third reading.
The application from Muse Cannabis — same owners as JAK’s Beer Wine Spirits — was the City’s first referral from the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch for a non-medical cannabis retailer. The proposed store will open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. There will be no access from inside the mall.
Five people who attended a neighbourhood information meeting hosted by the applicant support the store. City staff received an email from a Fitzgerald Avenue resident who opposes the application due to the “family-friendly” nature of the mall.
“I live in the immediate area, and I would be concerned about anyone purchasing cannabis at the mall and then lighting up in the vicinity of my home,” the person states.
The federal government legalized cannabis last fall. Provinces establish their own licensing approval process, and municipalities regulate zoning, business licensing and other criteria. So far, the City has received eight provincial referrals and is processing six rezoning applications. The City allows for a maximum five private cannabis retailers in Courtenay, and one government-operated store.
“Because this is new, we’re not accustomed to exposure to this new legal drug,” Coun. David Frisch said at Monday’s meeting.
“I think one of the challenges is when it becomes a human rights issue, because there is medical cannabis,” Mayor Bob Wells said. “It’s more complex, I think, than just saying, ‘This is a simple rule’.”
The proposal meets City requirements in terms of proximity to schools, but the mall’s closest property is less than 300 metres from the Airpark playground. However, staff believe the impact will be minimal due to buffers such as Cliffe Avenue and the mall parking lot. The distance between the store and playground is about 418 metres.
Coun. Doug Hillian asked if there are bylaws or mall regulations about smoking in the immediate vicinity.
“It (smoking) would follow provincial guidelines,” said Ian Buck, director of development services. “There are minimum distances around public entranceways to smoking any type of product.”
Coun. Will Cole-Hamilton would like to know about the mall’s policy concerning smoking cannabis anywhere on the property.
“I’d like to have some more information about that before casting a vote either way,” he said.
A public hearing about the application is at 5 p.m. Feb. 19 in council chambers.