Mayor James Baker speaks during Tuesday night’s council meeting. - Carli Berry/Capital News

Lake Country racing for title of first cannabis store in Central Okanagan

Two shops in Lake Country are now waiting for provincial approval

Lake Country is now in a race to have the first recreational cannabis store in the Okanagan.

Council reversed its decision and approved of a variance and business bylaws which allows a recreational cannabis store to operate at Turtle Bay Crossing.

Around 40 residents arrived to hear the decision and voice their support for the decision, including a member of the Lake Country Chamber of Commerce who offered his approval of the business, during a regular council meeting Tuesday night.

Mayor James Baker gave council a second go at deciding whether to adjust a 400 metre buffer between the cannabis store and a daycare operating on a temporary use permit, which allows Compass Cannabis Clinic to transform into its retail arm Starbuds, during Tuesday night’s council meeting.

“I wanted to make sure we heard from the (applicants.) If we had heard from them at the first meeting, it probably would have passed,” Baker said. “We still don’t know what the ramifications might be with people hanging out, smoking up near the daycare, but we don’t see that the liquor store (at Turtle Bay Crossing) is any more (dangerous.)”

Founder of Compass Cannabis Clinic, Dave Martyn was happy to hear the decision.

“Being headquartered in Kelowna, this Lake Country location means a lot to us. We are thankful that the mayor and council gave us another chance to present our case, and also listen to the residents of Lake Country. ‘BC Bud’ is a term recognized globally within the cannabis industry, so we’re proud that the first stores we will be opening are based in British Columbia. It’s been a long road, and our local partners Celine and Gavin have put in countless hours bringing this dream to life. We’re excited to bring recreational cannabis to the Okanagan,” he said in an emailed statement.

However, Compass Cannabis is not without contenders.

Monti Cahley, who said he is helping with the business development for another cannabis retailer in the district’s town centre at 9685 Highway 97, said the cannabis store could be open next week.

READ MORE: Cannabis store application receives approval from Summerland council

The company has already obtained a business licence from the district, and is currently just waiting on a name change approval from the province, he said.

Summerland is still contending with Lake Country for the first opening spot. At a meeting for Summerland’s council Dec. 11, council gave its support to a Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch Application submitted by Green Gaia for a store at Summerfair Shopping Centre. The status of the store’s opening is currently unknown as it is going through the province. Enderby is now also in the running as its city council approved of its referrals Dec. 17.

READ MORE: Enderby gives green light to pot shop

In Kelowna, the city doesn’t expect its first facility to be in operation until the spring of 2019. West Kelowna did not give a time frame of when its first facility would be open but has limited the number of shops to four. Peachland does not currently allow recreational shops in the district.

Vernon’s earliest deadline for processing applications is in January, while Penticton is still in the process of developing its regulatory framework.

Oscar Barnes with the board for the Lake Country Chamber of Commerce, asked council to reconsider its decision and supported the variance change as a representative of the board.

After being hit by a car, a Lake Country man said he used prescription drugs, which had negative long-term effects. He began using marijuana oil which helps him sleep, he said, and he was able to quit taking prescription drugs.

“I’m a big advocate of medical marijuana,” he said, and gave his support for the pot store.

READ MORE: Lake Country residents give letters of support for cannabis store

Ben Goerner, who has been an addictions counsellor for 30 years said he’s never seen a marijuana overdose and asked council to approve it.

Coun. Cara Reed asked if council was being fair with the other cannabis store in the town centre if council approves of this variance since the other store is already following the district’s bylaws.

Coun. Blair Ireland agreed with Reed, but got off the fence and voted in favour of the store. Coun. Todd McKenzie and Coun. Bill Scarrow already gave their support for the variance previously and voiced it again during Tuesday night’s meeting.

Council unanimously passed the motion to approve of both the variance and bylaw after some discussion. The audience clapped.

The cost for a retail licence is $550.

More to come.

@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

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