It’s expected that there’ll be no shortage of interest in operating legal cannabis dispensaries once recreational use becomes legal in Canada.
Here in the Okanagan, Kelowna now has its rules about where they can be located, with city council moving to protect areas around schools and parks and ensuring they won’t be built side-by-side.
However, marijuana sales won’t be out of reach in areas already inundated with drug problems, such as Leon Avenue. This, despite a recommendation from city staff not to allow them there because of the area’s reputation for drugs.
Staff cited the fact that there are number of social services on Leon to help drug addicts, and allowing dispensaries here might not be a good mix, but council gave the go ahead anyway.
“Staff had proposed the exclusion zone because there would have been some public safety concerns in the area,” said city planner Ryan Smith. “There’s a number of social service agencies in the area. Council felt that was maybe a bit of an overkill, considering we were already proposing setbacks from parks and schools and there was already a rezoning process where they could vet each application anyway.”
One dispensary owner who is surprised that council will allow dispensaries to operate downtown is Bob Kay. He owns a dispensary in Rutland and was forced by the city to shut down his months ago. He says he’s always wanted to move his business to the downtown core, but stayed away at the advice of the RCMP.
“You know, it’s kind of ironic, me being here for 10 years, always indicating that I wouldn’t go downtown,” said Kay. “But guess what? Now it’s downtown.”
Some of the other bylaw restrictions when it comes to setting up a dispensary in Kelowna include:
- No dispensaries within 60 metres of a residence.
- Dispensaries must be no less than 500 metres from each other.
- They cannot operate within 150 metres from any public elementary school; that goes up to 500 metres from any public middle or secondary schools.
- And must be no less than 150 metres from most major parks in the city.
The city will be accepting applications for dispensaries from Oct. 1 until the end of November. Council will have the final ‘say’ and don’t expect to see a legitimate dispensary opening until at least next summer.
Kay hopes to make the list.
“I’m excited about it. I think that we’re going to see a decrease in criminalization and I think that’s all going to go away,” said Kay. “Here we are — cannabis is here to stay — you’re welcome.”