How many cannabis retailers does Rossland want?
At Tuesday’s meeting of Rossland City Council, an application to the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Board, seeking permission to open a non-medical cannabis retail store, was on the agenda. The application will not be considered by the Board without a favourable recommendation from City Council, and the staff recommendation was to not approve the application.
The proposed store would be just a few doors east of the existing non-medical cannabis retail store in Rossland, “Jimmy’s Cannabis Shop.”
At the meeting, Mayor Moore announced that the application was being deferred to the June 15 Council meeting, at the request of the applicant. Now, why would an applicant want Council’s decision deferred? Could it have anything to do with the twelve messages sent to the City by residents who opposed the application – and none that favoured it? Will there be other messages sent to the City by ardent supporters of the applicant before the next meeting? How many messages will there be favouring the application for a second cannabis store, and how many messages opposing it? Will it be a contest of numbers?
Why the opposition?
Residents opposed the application for a second cannabis outlet for several reasons. They said that Rossland does not need another cannabis store – it is already well served. They said that two cannabis businesses in the same block would not be good for businesses in that block, and that two cannabis stores in such a small town “is not a good fit” and would create an unfavourable image for the downtown area. They pointed out that the whole region is well served by cannabis retailers, plus on-line sales and the black market. Some were concerned that having two cannabis retailers in this small community would make both businesses unsustainable. They felt that the downtown core is better served by having a greater variety of businesses.
Cannabis stores in the region:
At this time, staff reported that there is one cannabis store in Rossland, one in Warfield operated by the applicant, five in Trail, and seven in Castlegar.
The staff report pointed out that as all those stores are “selling the same product from the Provincial Government at nearly identical price points, there is no clear benefit and need for another store. This number of stores is more than enough to service the population of marijuana users within the region.”
The fact that each household is allowed to grow up to four plants for their own use wasn’t mentioned, but some residents who do grow their own have said that four plants is more than adequate for their own use.
The zoning is OK
A far as zoning and bylaws governing cannabis retailers go, there is no problem. Before cannabis was legalized, the City conducted a survey and found that most of the community didn’t want over-regulation. Council decided at that time not to limit the number of cannabis retailers or require any particular distance between them, but to let market forces and community response guide Council’s decisions on new applications. Council did impose a required distance from schools and youth centres, and a requirement for an air filtration system to reduce odours.
Community response seems to be the key issue in this instance.
The City must consider “the views of residents” in its decision-making -- that’s required by the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Board. The City must also consider the location of the proposed retail operation, and the “general impact on the community if the application is approved.”
Twelve citizens have sent messages so far, all opposing the application. It will be on the June 15 City Council meeting agenda for Council’s decision. If more residents have views, the City needs to know, and the City won’t know those views unless they receive messages expressing them.