New Westminster moves forward on pot plan

New Westminster will soon get to work weeding through applications for cannabis retail shops.

The City of New Westminster was accepting applications for cannabis retail stores from Oct. 24 to Nov. 28, but extended the deadline to Dec. 5. The extension isn’t expected to impact the opening of pot shops, with the first store potentially opening in April or May 2019

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“The application deadline was extended because some of the submission materials required had to be obtained from outside sources and institutions, and these groups were having difficultly turning materials around for applicants within the initial application window,” said Mike Watson, a city planner. “This is something which was outside of the city’s and the applicants’ control and we want to be sure we offer a reasonable timeframe for applicants to submit their materials.”

Watson was unable to provide information on the number of applications the city has received until presenting that information to city council. Despite the extension to the submission deadline, he said staff still intends to report back to council with this information in January.

The city will consider a blend of public and private operators in different New West neighbourhoods, with five expected to open in the first year.

Brennan Williams, owner of Sugarray’s Boxing Gym on Front Street, recently told city council that he works in an auxiliary industry to the marijuana industry and has a sense of the number of applications the city will receive and who some of those applicants will be.

“I am a bit concerned that most of those applications, quite a few, are from outside the city. I would like to see the council potentially look at trying to keep that in the city for existing residents and businesses – mainly just for the nuisance and safety and security of our city,” he said. “Applicants from Maple Ridge and Surrey and Vancouver, and applicants with multiple licences in multiple cities, will have very little care for our city, which is a really nice city.”

Kim Deighton, the city’s manager of licensing and integrated services, said staff will be assessing the applications based on a criteria previously established with council’s input, which includes 56 points addressing issues such as security, operations and esthetics. Based on the scores in that process, the top five will go forward to a rezoning process.

“In terms of the application process, initially it was presented to council about doing a lottery system,” said Mayor Jonathan Cote. “In the end, council decided we would be better served by having some merit to be applied. That is where the general, broad evaluation program would be.”

Coun. Chuck Puchmayr said there’s been “quite a lot of movement” in the community from people trying to secure addresses for potential cannabis dispensaries.

“We can’t discriminate against whether somebody lives in New Westminster or not, whether they have a business,” he said. “We have taken council’s power out of this and we have turned it over to staff with certain criteria. I am very confident they are going to do a good job of bringing that forward.”

In preparation for the federal Cannabis Act, the City of New Westminster developed a regulatory framework that addresses issues falling under municipal jurisdiction, including regulation of cannabis retail locations through the zoning bylaw; business licence requirements for retail locations and for cannabis production, warehousing and cultivation facilities; and public consumption limits through smoking control bylaws.

 

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