- Carli Berry/Capital News                                Dave Martyn, founder of Compass Cannibas Clinic, got his wish to open a cannabis store in Lake Country.

- Carli Berry/Capital News Dave Martyn, founder of Compass Cannibas Clinic, got his wish to open a cannabis store in Lake Country.

Year in review No. 4: Okanagan entrepreneurs enter the pot shop race

Lake Country may be the first municipality to open a store in the Central Okanagan

Canada legalized recreational cannabis Oct. 17, but the Central Okanagan has yet to see any stores open.

That’s not to say nothing has happened. The first one will likely open in Lake Country, as the district’s council recently approved a variance and business licence bylaw that allows a cannabis store to operate at Turtle Bay Crossing. Another store located in the district’s town centre is still waiting for approval from the province as well.

The founder of Compass Cannabis Clinic, a medical cannabis consultation clinic in Lake Country, was happy to here he could be the first to operate a recreational store in the Central Okanagan.

“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,” said Dave Martyn, with Compass Cannabis.

The store operator Celine Fitzgerald hinted on Facebook that operations for Starbuds, the store’s recreational arm, will begin in January.

In Kelowna, the city doesn’t expect its first facility to be in operation until closer to the end 2019 and it won’t be cheap for whoever gets there first.

Thirty-one local entrepreneurs have submitted applications to operate recreational marijuana shops in the city.

But for each applicant revealed by the City of Kelowna’s planning department, a unique lengthy and costly application process needs to be completed which the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce is worried may be too regulatory over-zealous.

Just over one-third of the applications received by the city are concentrated in downtown locations, with a particular focus on the 160-block of Pandosy Street, bordered by Leon and Lawrence avenues.

Another application is proposed for Capri Mall while the Rutland business core has been identified as possible store locations for five applicants.

The city has indicated approval for any of these applications is likely to be closer to the end of 2019.

After setting the fee to have property rezoned to allow a retail cannabis store to operate in the city at $10,450 —$1,000 of that just to have the application considered for the rezoning—city council has set the annual business licence fee for pot shops at $9,465. Lake Country has a far cheaper licence, set at $550.

The public will have an opportunity to comment on each application as each store that reaches council will need to proceed through the required rezoning process.

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.

While some in the region are working out the logistics of getting into the cannabis business, some local governments are currently opting out.

Smoking marijuana will remain unwelcome on Westbank First Nation land.

“We recognize the fact that in Canada, it’s legal,” said Kevin Kingston, council secretary and legal council for the WFN.

In 2011 there was a community wide vote about cannabis and a safe premises bylaw to keep marijuana out of public spaces was implemented. However, it will now be legal for community members to consume on their private property.

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