Two Cumberland applicants are waiting to hear from the province about their licences. (Black Press Media files)

Two Cumberland applicants are waiting to hear from the province about their licences. (Black Press Media files)

Waiting game for Cumberland cannabis licence hopefuls

Applicants gained local support but are going through checks with province

Cumberland cannabis licence applicants are currently in hurry-up-and-wait mode with the province.

Both Trugreen Solutions and Beaufort Botanicals have moved on from local approval and right now are in the middle of a waiting game, hoping to hear about approval from the province soon.

The Village of Cumberland, itself, had started working on this issue with applicants earlier than many communities.

“They have not heard yet, and neither have we,” Mayor Leslie Baird said.

In Courtenay, at present, there is local approval for two private and one government operation, while in Comox, the council is currently getting input from the public regarding a proposed location. Another one has received local approval.

As far as the status of the Cumberland applications before the province, Trugreen’s Mike Arneja said the process at the provincial level got started last fall, but he has yet to hear about the status of his application.

“The LCRB initiated Trugreen Solutions Inc. suitability assessment regarding this Cannabis Retail Sales application – also known as a ‘fit and proper’ assessment, which is comprised of financial integrity checks and security screenings of the applicant and persons associated with the applicant – since October,” Arneja said via email.

In February, the Village of Cumberland issued a temporary use permit to Trugreen, located on Third Street. Meanwhile, the second applicant, Beaufort Botanicals, also received a temporary use permit from the Village in April. The company also has an application before the City of Courtenay.

“They’d be a different licence for each facility,” Beaufort’s George Ehrler said. “That’s my understanding.”

Like Trugreen, Beaufort is also waiting to hear about its application status from the provincial government.

“It’s a long, slow process,” he said. “It’s just information going back and forth, and requirements … I guess their due diligence.”

RELATED STORY: Both Cumberland cannabis shops waiting for go-ahead from province

Locally, councils must comment on a proposed location for a store and any potential impact on the community if approved, as well as provide views of residents and information on how local government solicited these views. Finally, councils are to recommend whether an application should be approved or rejected and provide reasons for this recommendation.

Along with going through the process with local government and the community, licence applicants must go through steps with the provincial government. This multi-stage process involves the province looking into the actual site plans, a financial integrity check of the proposed company and a security check through the province’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, which is part of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. The province’s website outlines the licensing process and includes data on the numbers so far. For example, as of July 15, the province has 502 applications, of which 112 are from Vancouver Island, Powell River and the Gulf Islands. Some are incomplete, while others have been referred to local governments or First Nations.

In all of B.C., 27 are at a stage where they have been approved with conditions, specifically a final inspection, while 42 actual licences have been approved. For Vancouver Island, Powell River and the Gulf Islands, the numbers are 10 conditional approvals and six licences.

While the local applicants are currently waiting for the outcome and cannot comment on the status of their applications before the province, others on Vancouver Island have questioned the province’s motivation. Cowichan Tribes, which has an application, recently criticized the province for delays, suggesting it might be because the province, itself, is opening retail outlets.

RELATED STORY: Tribes fears favouritism holding up pot shop applications

Minister Mike Farnworth responded with a statement about the suggestions the province is in a conflict of interest because of the government outlets:

“The idea that a retail cannabis application is being slow-walked because the government wants to have a prime spot is absolute nonsense. This is not about ensuring government secures a public store,” he said. “At the end of the day, we are a wholesaler first and eager to see additional licensed private stores enter the marketplace and service them as our customers.”