Purchasing pot from a licensed cannabis store in Nanaimo blazed a little bit closer to reality.
Nanaimo councillors passed the first two readings of a rezoning application for what could become the city’s first provincially licensed cannabis store during a council meeting on Monday night.
Last year, the city received a rezoning application from the Bud Barn, which is requesting its commercial unit, located at 115-111 Nicol St., be rezoned to allow for a non-medicinal retail cannabis store.
The Bud Barn, which has been located on Nicol Street since 2016, plans to operate between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 p.m., seven days a week. The store stopped selling marijuana and marijuana-related products prior to legalization last October in order to avoid upsetting provincial or federal authorities.
Local bylaws and provincial regulation required the Bud Barn to submit a rezoning application to city staff, who had recommend councillors vote in favour of the request.
The province’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, which reviews cannabis retail license applications, also requires applicants receive support from local government as part of their review.
According to a staff report, the closest school is approximately 800 metres from the Bud Barn while closest licensed daycare is 450 metres away. A retail cannabis store has also been proposed at 52 Victoria Cres., which is 430 metres away from 111 Nichol St.
Nanaimo RCMP and the South End Community Association have reviewed the Bud Barn’s application and do not have any concerns, the report notes.
Endorsement from the LCRB as well as a community contribution of $10,000 to the city are required prior to final adoption of the rezoning bylaw. The $10,000 would be used toward funding city-led programming for underprivileged youths.
In a letter to the city, Bud Barn owner Matt Charlton said his intention is to open a legal marijuana store that offers a “bright, clean, professional and safe” environment for both customers and staff.
Charlton also says the business has been a positive corporate citizen, donating money, food and clothing to a number of local organizations and charities, including the Samaritan House women’s shelter, Nanaimo BMX Association and Loaves and Fishes.
Dale Lindsay, the city’s director of community development, told councillors on Monday that the Bud Barn is one of 13 applications requesting a retail cannabis store zoning designation that staff have received. He said all existing pot shops operating in the city are illegal, while some stores have stopped selling cannabis.
“Many of these operators that are applying to the province to be officially licensed by the province have continued to operate, but not sell, cannabis specifically, but sell other items,” he said.
Prior to legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada, a number of medical marijuana stores operated in Nanaimo despite not having a business licence from the city. A few years ago, a handful of cannabis stores selling medical marijuana were raided by RCMP officers because they violated federal law.
Coun. Jim Turley said he had a bit of a challenge with supporting the application given that some “pot shops” have been raided previously.
“I know the city probably doesn’t have any say in this, but do we get information like that with regarding whether or not there have been illegal activities, I guess, for a lack of a better term?” he asked.
Lindsay said the province will examine the applicant’s history and that it is councillors’ job to vote from a land-use perspective.
“The role of council is to look at the land use and is it the appropriate land use,” he said. “The province will be making the final determination on the licensing and they will be determining whether individuals or companies are fit and proper.”
In the end councillors voted unanimously to pass the first two readings of rezoning application. A public hearing on the application has been scheduled for Feb. 7 at the Shaw Auditorium.
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