June 24, 2019 6:31 pm
Updated: June 24, 2019 10:51 pm

First legal cannabis shop in the Okanagan set to open 8 months after legalization

SpiritLeaf in Vernon is the first recreational cannabis shop in the Okanagan to receive a provincial license. It is expected to open during the first week of July.

Megan Turcato / Globalnews
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More than eight months after recreational cannabis became legal in Canada last fall, the Okanagan is getting its first licensed retailer.

SpiritLeaf on 53 Avenue in Vernon’s north end is the first Okanagan shop to receive its required provincial licence.

The business plans to open its doors during the first week of July.

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Owner Sarah Ballantyne said in an email to Global Okanagan that she is thrilled to be the first fully approved recreational cannabis store in the region.

READ MORE: Public has mixed reactions to 7 Vernon cannabis store applications

“The provincial government is vetting all applicants thoroughly, which makes the process quite long,” Ballantyne wrote.

“We were confident in our application so we remained patient throughout the process.”

Part of the approval process was getting support from the municipality. Ballantyne’s shop, along with six others, received Vernon city council’s blessing in late March.

More stores have received Vernon city council’s approval since then.

READ MORE: First licensed, private cannabis store in the Shuswap opens its doors

During the civic process, the city received a 68-signature petition opposing the proposed location for SpiritLeaf. Critics were worried about parking and the store’s proximity to a daycare, and had concerns the shop would “attract a less than desirable clientele.”

However, city council gave its blessing to the location despite the criticism.

Watch: (Aired May 1) Big fines for West Kelowna illegal dispensary owners

During the civic approval process, Ballantyne defended the choice of location and pointed out there is already a liquor store, distillery and bars in the area.

The business also said its five parking spots would be well signed to prevent parking problems.

Asked what she would say to anyone with lingering concerns about the business’ opening, Ballantyne noted that “there is still a stigma surrounding cannabis” but said opening the store was the right decision for her and her partner.

The province is defending the length of time it has taken to process applications for cannabis stores saying the application requirements are detailed and robust in order to protect public safety.

The provincial ministry responsible said applications are dealt with in the order they are received.

However, the province said the length of time it takes for cannabis retail store applications to be processed varies widely depending on how ready the applicant is to move forward with the process, how complex the application is, and how long it takes the local municipality to move through its part of the application process.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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