The City of Penticton’s licensing program for marijuana dispensaries is going up in smoke.
In December, two pot shops were granted six-month temporary use permits as the city waited for the federal government to legalize cannabis.
But in a 5-2 vote Tuesday, council decided not to extend those permits, essentially banning pot shops city-wide.
“We looked at reducing any legal liability to having them and we wanted to align with other municipalities up and down the valley so it’s consistent with people wanting access to marijuana,” said Penticton mayor Andrew Jakubeit.
Councillor Max Picton cast one of two dissenting votes.
“We used the temporary operating permit as sort of a trial basis to see how it worked out for the city, and from my personal standpoint, I feel that it worked well,” said Picton.
Okanagan Cannabinoid Therapy declined to comment but said in a letter to council said they’ve been acting professionally and haven’t violated any conditions of the permit.
The owner of Green Essence also declined to comment. But in her letter to council, Melissa Osiowy said “In the past six months we have seen a huge spike in seniors that come through our door, looking for an alternative to the opioids that are being handed out so freely…I believe we are providing much needed accommodations for those seniors in need.”
Customers said they rely on the dispensaries to help with different ailments and may be forced back to street supplies.
“It kind of helps me relax a little bit after work because I really can’t shut my brain off,” said Aaron Piche who suffers from insomnia.
The city wants the dispensaries to transform into pot-free “wellness centres.”
“They can sell drug paraphernalia they just can’t sell cannabis product itself,” Jakubeit said.
The city will attempt to negotiate court-approved consent-orders with the dispensaries limiting them to wellness centres.
Staff said the transition could take a few months.
WATCH: Global Okanagan’s ongoing coverage of marijuana dispensaries in the Okanagan.