Cannabis sales in Kent could be coming soon, thanks to this week’s decision from the district council.
During its meeting this week, the District of Kent Council approved the third and final reading of an amended zoning bylaw outlining regulations for cannabis retail stores within the municipality.
The amended bylaw allows both private and government-owned retail cannabis stores to set up shop in the district, per the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act. The previous wording of the amendment allowed for only a government-run cannabis store in the Agassiz townsite.
District Councilor Susan Spaeti said no one attended the public meeting for the third reading, which was held just prior to Council’s regular meeting on Monday.
“The council was comfortable with the way the bylaws are written,” she added.
The amended bylaw is several months in the making, with it first appearing before the council and being read on June 24 of last year.
A few members of the public attended public meetings in the past while the then-proposed amendment was still in the reading stage. Back in July, the idea of allowing cannabis retailers was met with some debate on both sides of the issue. Attendees of these earlier meetings warned of the possible danger of underage abuse of pot with persons aged 19 and up purchasing cannabis on behalf of minors. Others appreciated the prospect of easier access to cannabis products for medicinal purposes as the price of certain cannabis-based medication could be out of financial reach for some.
In November, district staff recommended adding wording to allow both government and private cannabis retailers to be licensed should they meet the proper legal requirements. The district is not permitted by the province to restrict whether or not cannabis retailers could be government-operated. However, it reserves the right to refuse a business licence to private retailers, which would potentially have limited the prospective cannabis retailers to government-run prior to the bylaw change passed this week.
While paving the way for this burgeoning B.C. business, the District’s changes to the bylaw also include restrictions. According to Darcey Kohuch, the district director of Development Service, the bylaw permits only one site to be zoned for cannabis retail within the district and Agassiz townsite limits. To add any further cannabis retail zones would require the council to amend the bylaw once again, and Kohuch added it’s too early to tell if there will be a need for a second location at this point.
The new bylaw amendment further states the site for the retailer is not to be located within 125 metres within any public or private schools or within 200 metres of any child care centre. The business must also be set up in a non-residential zone.
The Council further amended the Fees and Charges Bylaw to include fees related to retail cannabis. There’s a $5,000 annual business licence fee, a $1,500 processing fee for a provincial cannabis retail license and a $1,000 processing fee for changes to a provincial cannabis retail license.
The amended bylaw and fee structure are among the first cannabis-related regulations in the district, and given the industry’s growth throughout the province since non-medical use was legalized last October, it may not be the last.
While this bylaw and the amendments have effectively opened the door for local cannabis retail, Kohuch said there are currently no active plans to build a shop in the district yet. He further explained applications for such a business would have to pass through the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch of the provincial government first.
Kohuch said he sees the addition of these cannabis retail regulations as an opportunity for economic growth for the district.
“Just like any other business, it provides growth, employment and it will hopefully help fill some vacant (retail) spaces downtown,” he added. “I think with provincial regulation, these stores are generally very well run and look very nice.”
Due to the fact that Pivot Point Family Growth Centre is located on the west side of the Agassiz townsite, any future cannabis retailer will likely end up on the east side of the municipality.
The next District Council meeting is January 27 at 7 p.m. For more information on the cannabis retailer licensing process, visit the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation website at justice.gov.bc.ca/cannabislicensing/.