Some of the applicants hoping to open cannabis shops in New Westminster think the city’s process stinks.
As part of a plan to allow five initial cannabis retail shops to open in New Westminster, city staff evaluated all of the applications using a checklist that includes items related to: location and land use; business operations, nuisance and security; and esthetics (such as signage, windows and gates).
On Monday night, council heard from several delegations who voiced concerns about the tabulation of the scores, the tiebreaker criteria used to select the successful applicants, erroneous calculations in a city report, and inability to access original documents to see how applicants scored in the evaluation checklist.
Eggs Canna Royal City, which has four existing retail cannabis stores, had proposed a shop in Royal City Centre but lost out on opening an uptown store after a tiebreaker. Several representatives of Eggs Canna expressed concern about the city’s evaluations and asked council to send the report back to staff and have staff recalculate and verify the applicants’ scores.
George Petropavalis, owner of River’s Reach Pub, told council he believes there has been a “gross misconduct” by staff when grading submissions for shops in the uptown.
“My location, The Reel Reef was not included and was scored well below the other applicants – even the two unlicensed dispensaries, who should have received a very low score due to their history of unlicensed activities and compliance issues,” he said. “I am requesting the immediate suspension and investigation of scoring outcomes with respect to the cannabis retail process for uptown area of New Westminster.”
The city’s plan has been to do a review of the city’s process a year after the first cannabis stores opened in New West before accepting new applications.
Coun. Nadine Nakagawa said she would be in favour of speeding up the process.
“What I saw here was there appeared to be a number of very high-quality applications and business owners who are very passionate about opening up businesses in this community,” she said. “I understand that the city wants to do this correctly. At the same time, it is s a legal product.”
On Monday, council authorized the return of 25 per cent of the business licence and rezoning fees for applications that weren’t selected to move forward.
According to a staff report, the city required cannabis retail applicants to pay a business licence application fee ($5,400) and a rezoning application fee ($1,811.80). The report, however, noted that the applicants may wish to wait before receiving a refund until the city’s consideration of the applications is complete, as they would remain eligible for consideration of a retail location if the five recommended applicants withdraw or are unsuccessful.
“This is not the only applicants we are going to receive for cannabis,” said Coun. Patrick Johnstone. “This is not the end of the road for people who have not gotten through this first group. This is just the first group that are going through a public hearing.”