The first cannabis retail store in Nanaimo could open before Halloween.
Nanaimo-based Mood Cannabis Company expects to have at least one of its two proposed cannabis retail stores operational by the end of October.
The company is planning to build two cannabis stores, one at 3923 Victoria Ave., near Country Club Centre, and the other at 6404 Metral Dr., next to the Best Western Northgate Inn.
Mood Cannabis became the first applicant to have a proposed marijuana retail store application re-zoned in Nanaimo earlier this summer when councillors approved re-zoning for the Victoria Avenue location.
Cory Waldron, chief executive officer of Mood Cannabis Co., said the Victoria Avenue location could be operational by as early as mid-October. He said the company was waiting to receive a building permit from the city so it can renovate the store.
“Our permit should come in any day now. It’s been in there for months. After that we are looking at about six weeks of renovations,” he said.
Waldron said the company is hopeful that its Metral Drive location could be open around the same time. He said renovations needed on the Metral building are smaller in scale and will take less time to complete should re-zoning be approved.
“That is a strip mall unit and it is actually a different permit. It’s a tenant’s improvement permit, so it should go fairly quickly and so both stores should open at the same time,” he said.
Renovations, said Waldron, must be completed before Mood, or any other applicant, can receive an operating licence from the province.
“They don’t actually give you a licence until your renovation is complete and everything in the store is ready and essentially you’re ready to turn the open sign on,” he said. “Once you are at that stage, a licensing inspector from the province will come and do an inspection of the facility and hopefully, at that point, they will issue you a licence on the spot.”
All cannabis stores in Nanaimo require a specific type of zoning from the city before they can head to the province for review, which includes a background check and financial review. In order to obtain the proper zoning, all applicants in Nanaimo must go through the city’s re-zoning process.
Waldron said the provincial part of the process is actually relatively quick compared to the municipal re-zoning.
“They said from the beginning that it will take seven to 10 months and they certainly weren’t off,” he said.
The City of Nanaimo has received a total of 20 rezoning applications for cannabis retail stores. Of those 20 rezoning applications, four have been approved including the two applications from Mood Cannabis as well as two applications for government-owned B.C. Cannabis Stores at 6683 Mary Ellen Dr. and 3200 Island Hwy N. at Country Club Centre. Only one application – 4061 Norwell Dr. – has been rejected by council.
The B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch said in an e-mailed statement to the News Bulletin that its Mary Ellen Drive store is slated to open sometime during the coming winter or spring. The branch said it has no idea when its location at Country Club Centre could open.
Lainya Rowett, the city’s manager of current planning, said she couldn’t estimate when a cannabis retail store would open in Nanaimo because there are a lot of variables and each applicant is different.
“From the time of final adoption, it could take six months to a year or more. It will all depend on the operator because if there are things they need to do to modify the building, such as building permit, it could take months or even years,” she said. “It is hard to say.”
Waldron said he believes one of the reasons why Mood’s application for Victoria Avenue has moved along quickly is because the company hired lawyers and accountants to help with the application process.
“The provincial application part of it, unlike many of the other applicants, we actually moved through that fairly quickly, we’ve been finished our provincial application part for both stores for several months now…” he said. “Right from the start, what we did was say, hey, rather than try and put all these documents together ourselves, let’s work with our accountants and lawyers and let them do most of that work and that is what we did right from the beginning, so we motored through that part of the process fairly quickly.”
Though Mood might be first, Waldron said he expects a handful of other stores to open around the same time, adding that there is a strong market for cannabis in Nanaimo.
“The history is there, the consumers are already there,” he said. “We’re just flipping the sign over from illicit market to the legal market.”
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