October 17, 2018 10:17 pm
Updated: October 18, 2018 10:52 am

Private cannabis stores won’t be licensed in Vernon until at least January

Watch Above: Many Vernon cannabis stores were not operating on legalization day.

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While recreational cannabis use is now legal in Canada, Vernon pot shops are still months away from being licensed to legally sell the product under the new regulatory regime.

The private sale of recreational marijuana in B.C. will require a provincial licence; prospective retailers will need the support of local governments to make that happen.

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In Vernon’s case, the city said the earliest it can process licence applications is January, but there is no word on how long it might take for the province to grant them after that.

“What we are doing is unprecedented on the planet. We are legalizing cannabis across the board and the federal government, the provincial government and the municipal government all have regulations that they need to develop to make that happen for a use that is brand new to all of us,” said Kim Flick, director of community infrastructure development at the City of Vernon.

The news comes as many Vernon pot shops shut their doors pending licensing.

READ MORE: No access to cannabis frustrates Kelowna advocate

Eden was open on Wednesday to answer customer questions but it wasn’t selling cannabis.

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Across the street, both the Okanagan Cannabinoid Therapy and Be Kind dispensaries were locked up on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the shelves are bare at the Herbal Health Centre; they’re packing up and laying off many of their employees.

“We are working on getting our retail licence and to do that we want to obey the governments rules… so we can eventually get a [recreational] licence,” explained manager Tania Robinson.

They are not alone, the province has yet to issue any licences for private recreational cannabis stores in British Columbia.

However, the province has argued it was ready on legalization day and is pointing the finger at municipalities for delays.

“Many communities have said that they are ready to deal with processing applications and dealing with applications but they want local government elections out of the way,” said Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.

READ MORE: B.C. government launches online cannabis sales with some strains already sold out

“We always knew that this was going to be an issue, but our expectation is once those are over, you are going to see more stores open in the coming months.”

However, the City of Vernon said it simply wasn’t given enough time to prepare itself.

“We first got the draft legislation from the province in April of this year,” said Flick.

“A standard rezoning process takes four to six months and that’s a use we know to a zoning district we have. We had to invent brand new zoning regulations in five and half months.”

However, not all Vernon’s marijuana shops were closed on Wednesday.

Herb’s Healing Center was open and giving away product to their existing medical clients provided customers paid the sales tax.

“[It’s] a bit of a protest against the government and to show that we are not here for the money, we are actually here for the patients,” explained owner Russ Stevenson.

Some customers were happy to see his store open and giving away product.

“It made it really easy for me to get my medicine today – I have Tourette’s so it really helps with that,” said Brandon Penner.

READ MORE: Canadians with past pot convictions won’t have to pay or wait to apply for a pardon

“No one else is open today so them just giving it away is almost a miracle,” added Jackie Finch.

Going forward, Stevenson is looking at staying open for medical patients despite the fact that his sales licence is still pending.

“Our patients actually need access to their cannabis,” Stevenson said.

The province said residents across B.C. have access to buying legal cannabis through the government’s website until more stores open.

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