Seed to Soul on Hudson Avenue is one of four cannabis retail stores in Salmon Arm that will be closed until they receive their licences to operate. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Shuswap pot shops close as cannabis becomes legal

One marijuana dispensary won’t require city approvals as on First Nations land

Business was brisk at Eden and Starbuds on Tuesday morning.

The marijuana dispensaries located on Lakeshore Drive NW in Salmon Arm were closing at the end of business hours on Oct. 16, as required by the province.

Starbuds manager Chris MacMillan says their application to sell marijuana is not 100 per cent complete as they are waiting for documents to arrive in the mail.

“We’re hoping to get it done as soon as possible and it’s hard to say how long we’ll be waiting,” he says, noting business was busy on Monday and Tuesday. “We will remain closed until we get our licence, which is a real shame because we have a large clientele.”

He says many of his customers do not buy products to get high, but more for medical purposes.

“Our plan is to re-open and we hope they look at us and say ‘you have followed the guidelines,’” says MacMillan, noting the cost to obtain a licence is about $10,000, and Starbuds’ application process is a bit different as the store is located on First Nations land.

Related: Starbuds sets up medicinal dispensary in Salmon Arm

“As far as I know, we’re not obliged to be under the city’s bylaws,” he says, something Kevin Pearson, the city’s director of development services, confirms.

MacMillan says he and staff considered remaining open, until the local RCMP advised them they could be charged with trafficking and the province would also deny them a licence as they would be operating illegally.

There was no answer at GreenLeaf, one of three other marijuana dispensaries in town, but MacMillan says they closed their doors, “at least temporarily,” on Oct. 1.

Seed to Soul on Hudson Avenue was already closed Tuesday and had a sign on the door stating it would remain as such until further notice.

Clayton Beadle, regional manager at Eden, says Eden would be open for informational purposes only, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 17 to 19 and on Oct. 22 and 23 next week.

When local cannabis retailers do open, their products will be restricted.

“It looks like edibles, topicals and concentrates will not be available until further regulations are provided by Health Canada,” says Beadle.

Eden supervisor Dawn Grey says local Eden staff are waiting to hear from the city and obtain their licence.

“We’re in the hurry up and wait phase,” she says.

And it’s likely they will be waiting a while longer.

Pearson says his department is currently processing three applications referred to them by the Provincial Liquor Cannabis Licensing Branch.

Related: Salmon Arm council adopts retail cannabis policy

“That’s where they start their applications; it’s almost like liquor licences and that’s how we’re handling it,” says Pearson, noting he spent the better part of last year developing a cannabis bylaw at Salmon Arm council’s request.

The bylaw spells out that any business that wishes to sell cannabis must adhere to federal and provincial laws and regulations, adhere to the city’s bylaws and regulations, and obtain city business licensing approval.

“It explains where these stores are supported and where they are not, what commercial zoning is required, and the procedures involved in processing these application within city hall,” Pearson says, pointing out all applications for a retail cannabis store are referred to council for approval. “It is a flexible policy. Council can support a store in an area where the policy does not support it, and council can also decide to not support a store where the policy supports it.”

Related: CSRD adopts cannabis policy

Like every other rezoning and development application, applications for a cannabis retail store go to the end of the queue and Pearson anticipates a six-week minimum time period for an application to get in front of council.

In terms of enforcement, Pearson says he understands the province is in the process of creating an enforcement unit.

The city’s bylaw officer might be involved as anyone operating illegally could be seen as being in breach of business licensing.

“That can lead to enforcement measures by the city; however, we would probably defer to the RCMP and the Provincial Enforcement Unit because, at the end of the day, these are provincial and federal regulations,” he adds.

Pearson says the city’s bylaw was derived with a great deal of public input.

“The public response to the policy and legalization was that over 80 per cent who responded to our survey were in favour of having the retail outlets,” he says. “One thing I can say, too, is the ones that have been open, we have not received any formal complaints.”


@SalmonArm
barb.brouwer@saobserver.net

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