A proposed pot shop in Vernon’s Fruit Union Plaza will be able to move forward in regulatory processes after Vernon City Council changed its cap on downtown cannabis shops.
Last April, council voted to cap the number of pot shops in the city’s two downtown business improvement areas at six, to prevent the area from being swamped with newly legal recreational cannabis stores.
However, on Monday, council unanimously agreed to shrink the area where the six-store cap applies after receiving an appeal from Calgary-based Cannabis Cowboy Inc.
The business application for regulatory approval was placed on hold by the city since the cap was put in place. But they, and the landlord at the strip-mall, argued the decision was unfair, since Cannabis Cowboy rented a space and started is application with the province months before the cap was announced.
Because of council’s Monday decision, the six-store cap will now only apply to the primary business improvement area, not the secondary one, where Cannabis Cowboy’s proposed store is located, allowing that shop to move ahead in the regulatory process.
Council heard that there are two other proposed shops whose business ventures were put on hold because of the cap. The proposed stores fall within the capped area of downtown.
Councillor Kari Gares raised concerns changing the cap could be a slippery slope, but ultimately voted along with her council colleagues in favour of the change.
“I think we have to be careful here because if we allow one, we are going to have to allow all of those, we set ourselves up for a much bigger issue,” Gares said.
“I would be receptive to the idea of removing caps all together if we would amend our bylaws to put in a 500 m distance because really that’s what the cap is doing is making sure we don’t have saturation especially in our downtown core that is experiencing significant issues.”
There are already multiple civic approved shops within 500 metres of the proposed Cannabis Cowboy location and within 500 metres of each other.
However, councilor Dalvir Nahal suggested market forces may also work to prevent a large number of cannabis shops in Vernon’s downtown.
Meanwhile, the city still has a Vernon-wide moratorium on new applications for pot shops in place.
B.C. requires shops to have both provincial and local approval to operate.
The proposed Cannabis Cowboy shop still has more regulatory hurdles to clear, including a civic public consultation process.