Over a dozen new government-run cannabis stores are set to open in B.C. by the end of 2019 — but you’re still out of luck if you live in the Lower Mainland.
The Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) has received municipal approval to open BC Cannabis stores in several cities around B.C., including two more in Kamloops, which is already home to the province’s first government store.
One of those additional Kamloops stores is set for a late summer opening, along with stores in Campbell River, Cranbrook and Terrace, the LDB said.
Fort St John, Salmon Arm, Prince George, Powell River, Quesnel, Port Alberni, Trail and Courtenay will also see stores open sometime this year, although the LDB couldn’t give an exact opening date for those locations.
Vernon has also said it has received an application from the province to open a store there.
It takes seven months after a lease is signed to get a store up and running, the LDB said.
But the province said that approving BC Cannabis Stores for Vancouver, Victoria and other cities in the Lower Mainland is even more complicated.
WATCH: (Aired Oct. 17, 2018) Kamloops gets the province’s first physical BC Cannabis store
“Some of the key challenges include distance requirements from places such as schools and community centres, as well as existing private retailers that are expected to receive licencing,” the ministry of the attorney general, which manages the LDB, said in a statement.
In Vancouver, that means situating a store at least 300 metres from such places, as well as from any neighbourhood homes, youth facilities or existing cannabis stores.
READ MORE: Vernon could be getting a BC Cannabis Store
The City of Vancouver said the province has to follow the same rules as any other private retailer, and that staff have been working to provide a list of possible sites for a BC Cannabis operation to set up shop.
“We have had conversations with the province about the possibility of their opening a BC Cannabis Store in Vancouver,” the city said in a statement.
WATCH: (Aired Jan. 5) Jill Bennett reports on Vancouver’s first two legal pot shops
“Based on analysis by city staff after applying the distancing regulations, it is expected that up to 70 locations could be eligible for development permit approval. The decision on whether or not an approved location is granted a provincial cannabis retail licence rests with the province.”
Vancouver still has just three legal cannabis stores operating, but city staff said another 15 applications are awaiting provincial approval.
Victoria gets its first pot shops
Victoria city staff, meanwhile, said the province has not approached them to open a government-run cannabis store.
However, the City of Victoria has received “fit and proper” approvals from the province for its first five private cannabis stores, it said in a statement, and the owners of three of the stores say they’ll be opening within weeks.
The Original FARM cannabis store on Douglas Street said it’s nearly ready to open, along with Clarity Cannabis on Gorge East Street and Cloud Nine Collective on Fort Street.
An additional Original FARM location on Scott Street is awaiting a public forum at council’s meeting on April 25, while a second Clarity Cannabis location on Johnson Street has been approved by council but is subject to complying with permits and bylaws, the city said.
WATCH (Aired Jan. 9) Neetu Garcha reports on the closure of Cannabis Culture stores
Under the capital’s rezoning policy, cannabis stores must be at least 200 metres from any school, at least 400 metres from existing cannabis retailers, and must be located within an established retail location or town centre.
The province and the LDB have both pointed to the online BC Cannabis store, which saw 84,480 separate cannabis sales by the end of February since the substance became legal on Oct. 17, 2018.
The sole physical BC Cannabis Store in the province has seen 47,730 sales within the same time frame.