Mission council has approved an application for the district’s fifth marijuana dispensary, forwarding it to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch for final certification. One one councillor voted against its approval.
The Mission Cannabis store will be located in the Cedar Valley area, on the southeast corner of Cedar Street and Tunbridge Avenue. This is the owner’s second approved location in the Mission.
Public input on the location was sought from Nov. 17 to Dec. 7, which resulted in staff receiving 168 comments and two petitions. It showed 117 comments in support of the application, with 51 opposed. Similarly, a petition in favour of the pot shop received 489 signatures, while a second petition only received 18 signatures in opposition.
Several councillors said they had personally spoken with the applicant, and were confident in their ability to run these facilities.
Coun. Jag Gill said he inquired with the Maple Ridge RCMP regarding the allowance of pot shops in that community, and was told there “really no impact.”
“I want to support this, because I don’t want to add to the stigma,” Gill said. “There’s a liquor store beside it, what makes it different from a cannabis store?”
The singular vote in opposition was Coun. Ken Herar, taking a more conservative approach, he said five approved locations in a year was “Too many, too fast.”
In 2018, the federal government legalized the sale of cannabis for non-medicinal purposes, and by October, 2019 the district considered and resolved to allow pot shops in Mission.
The first application, a provincial-operated store on Lougheed Highway, was approved in December, 2019. The first intake of applications for privately-owned stores occurred this year from Jan. 31 to May 1, and resulted in five more applications, three of which were approved.
To date, the government-run store is the only location in operation. Mission Cannabis’ store on Lougheed Highway will open in January, according to the staff report.
Herar said that he wanted to hold off giving the green light to this application until the three remaining locations were open for business, adding those stores were in commercial areas while this was in a “highly-concentrated residential” neighborhood.
“We don’t know the impact … Without seeing the positive or negative consequences this may cause to the citizens in our community.”
Herar put a motion towards council to defer the approval, and re-examine it in the new year. It was defeated unanimously.
The properties bordering the site to the immediate east, south and northwest are occupied by single-family dwellings, while the properties to the north and west are vacant.
The staff report says the surrounding area is expected to grow into a neighbourhood centre, consisting of various commercial uses.
Council has doubled the radius of their notifications seeking public input to 300 metres on Nov. 17, given the area was currently not very developed.
Coun. Daniel Plecas said he thought it was inappropriate to defer the approval until 2021 because the applicant had already gone through the proper hoops.
Acting Mayor Cal Crawford’s opinion was simple: It’s a legal business, it meets all the district’s requirements and it will be provincially licensed the same way government-run stores are.
District staff recommended the approval, as the application was consistent with municipal bylaws, which require a 250-metre buffer from public and private schools, as well as 150-metre buffer from other cannabis-retail stores.
Coun. Carol Hamilton said she was “on the fence” about the location, as it just outside the buffer zones of public and private schools. But she agreed the stigma around cannabis stores was overblown, stating the district faced similar concerns when it started allowing neighbourhood pubs into communities.