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Here’s why Queensborough could have two cannabis shops

Public hearing set for government-run store
The B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch is holding a job fair on Monday, Jan. 6 to recruit prospective employees for its B.C. Cannabis Store, which is expected to open in early-summer 2020 at Queensborough Landing shopping centre.

A proposed government-run cannabis store at Queensborough Landing will get to go to public hearing after all.

On Monday, council gave first and second readings for a zoning amendment bylaw regarding a proposed public cannabis retail store at 805 Boyd St. Council also approved an updated cannabis retail rezoning policy, with changes made to the way the city evaluates government-operated cannabis retail stores.

“Staff used the cannabis retail rezoning policy and the cannabis rezoning application evaluation checklist to evaluate the BC Cannabis Stores’ application in the same manner as the private operators, despite the fact that publicly operated BC Cannabis Stores are different in several aspects from private operators,” said a staff report. “The result was that BC Cannabis stores were at a disadvantage in regard to the checklist when compared to private operators.”

Although council supports a mix of private and public stores in New Westminster, it previously decided to support consideration of a private store in Queensborough instead of a public store because it had ranked higher on the scoring system. Council also directed staff to proceed with an alternate review process for evaluation government-operated non-medical cannabis retail stores.

Now that that work has been done, council has approved an updated cannabis rezoning policy and directed staff to schedule a public hearing for the B.C. Cannabis Store application for Sept. 30.

Public hearing dates have yet to be set for three private stores being considered in New West – Maple Leaf Greenery at 71 Sixth St. (downtown); the Herb Co. Cannabis Store – 451 East Columbia St. (Sapperton); and the Queensborough Cannabis Co. Ltd – 540 Ewen Ave.

“Two rezoning applications for cannabis retail locations have been approved by council,” planner Mike Watson told the Record. “The other three rezoning applications are waiting for the results of the financial integrity and security checks from the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.”

Monday’s decision means it’s possible there could be six stores in New West, including two stores in Queensborough, as part of the first round of applications for cannabis stores.

“The private cannabis retail location at 540 Ewen Ave. is still being considered by council,” Watson said.

In response to concerns about the process for government-run stores, some changes have been made regarding criteria for evaluating their applications, including: submission requirements (such as not requiring proof of application to the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch and corporate ownership materials); the rezoning application process (applications aren’t required to be referred to the LCRB); business and neighbourhood security requirements; and business esthetics.

In June, city council approved the first two cannabis shops in New Westminster – Muse Cannabis (532 Sixth St.) and Westcanna (710 12th St.) After getting rezoning approval, applicants must still go through a series of steps before opening shops, such as finalizing the process with the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, getting a business licence, obtaining building permits for any tenant improvements, ordering stock and hiring staff.