Saskatoon committee votes in favour of $20K licensing fee for cannabis retail businesses

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WATCH ABOVE: A report presented to Saskatoon’s planning, development and community services committee says licensing fees can be used to mitigate the costs of regulations. Adam MacVicar reports – Jun 13, 2018

A City of Saskatoon committee has voted unanimously to recommend a number of regulations for cannabis-related businesses in the city, including an initial $20,000 licensing fee.

The licensing fee, which would have an annual renewal cost of $10,000, would apply to retail stores and production facilities.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan selects retailers for cannabis stores

The average cost of the most common business license in Saskatoon is $125, with an annual renewal rate of $85.

“By no means will I ever entertain a penny of citizens of Saskatoon property tax going towards the administration, the costs associated with these seven retail cannabis outlets,” Coun. Darren Hill said. “They’re going to be extremely lucrative, private, for-profit ventures that should be funded by their business licence fee.”

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According to administration, cannabis business was thrust upon municipalities and the city has pumped an estimated $150,000 into preparing for the impending legalization of marijuana.

“If seven businesses generate $20,000 each, that’s $140,000,” Mayor Charlie Clark told reporters following the committee meeting. “That will not touch the amount of expense that’s gone into sorting this out.”

Clark voted in favor of the $20,000 fee, but noted he supported advocating revenue sharing through excise taxes from the province.

“It’s a significant departure from how we’ve dealt with costs and business licenses from how we have in the past,” Clark said. “We have no clear indication from other levels of government that there’s going to be a cost sharing component to this.”

READ MORE: Legal cannabis stores fear illegal operations have competitive advantage

Administration said significant city resources have been used and they expect that to increase “due to the additional services that will be provided to the business community and general public.”

Services would include working with applicants to find a suitable location, carrying out inspections, and fielding questions for businesses and the public.

“Additional provisions that the federal or provincial governments may address, such as approval of edibles or (the) release of additional provincial licences, will place additional impact on municipal resources,” states the report.

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Administration said the fee structure will be re-evaluated once cannabis-related businesses are fully established in the city and how these impact long-term resource requirements.

Storefronts would also be restricted from displaying any images that would promote cannabis or cannabis-related items. Additional signage may be required to indicate only people aged 19 or older can enter stores in accordance with provincial legislation.

The report also recommends 160-metre separation between cannabis-related businesses, which administration said is applied to other businesses in the city to avoid clustering.

“It would be a good thing if these stores were spread out throughout the city and everybody didn’t just look at one district or one area,” Clark said.

There would also be a requirement for the installation of air filtration systems that would effectively minimize odours on neighbouring properties.

Administration said the proposed regulations will provide some certainty to the seven successful applicants for retail licences in Saskatoon.

Other cannabis-related businesses, which include consultation or education, could be included in the proposed bylaw in the future.

A city committee approved the recommendations which will now head to city council for final approval.

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