Public hearings on New West cannabis shops delayed

The timing of public hearings for cannabis shops in New West is being pushed back while the City of New Westminster awaits information from the province.

After evaluating applications for 22 locations across the city, council directed staff to prepare zoning amendment bylaws for each of the cannabis shops being proposed at five locations in New Westminster: 71 Sixth St.; 540 Ewen Ave.; 710 12th St.; 451 East Columbia St.; and 532 Sixth St. On Monday, council gave two readings to five zoning amendment bylaws for the properties but held off on scheduling a public hearing until after receiving some needed information from the province’s Liquor Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB).

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“We have not yet received the results of the financial integrity checks and security screenings from the LCRB, and, as such, are not able to conduct the public hearing on April 29,” said planner Mike Watson. “Now that council has considered first and second readings of the bylaws, we are able to schedule a public hearing and send out the required notification as soon as we have this information from the LCRB.”

A previous staff report to council indicated public hearings for the five proposed locations could be held April 29.

“The LCRB is conducting financial integrity checks and security screenings of all applicants and persons associated with the applicant,” Watson said in an email to the Record. “At this time, we don’t have a timeline from the LCRB as to when the city would receive the results of these checks.”

The province requires all applicants for non-medical cannabis retail licences to go through security screening, including criminal and police record checks, and financial-integrity checks. This includes screening of the applicant, as well as other persons who are connected to the applicant or associate.

If the applications receive rezoning approval from the city, Watson said there are a few steps applicants need to complete before ordering products and opening their doors. They would need to: get conditional approval from the LCRB; have their business licence application processed by the city; complete any required tenant improvements (and building permits if necessary) and other approvals such as sign permits; and receive a final inspection and approval from the LCRB.

“It is difficult to estimate timelines as after zoning and business licence approvals, the process is largely out of the city’s hands and back in the applicants’ and LCRB’s hands,” Watson said.

When considering the staff report at Monday’s meeting, Coun. Patrick Johnstone questioned whether the city should be pursuing the issue provincial requirements for window treatments for cannabis shops. He said the province requires cannabis shop windows to be opaque, but city staff don’t feel that is necessary or particularly helpful when it comes to security or street presence.

Watson said city staff has raised the issue of window requirements in several different forums on several different occasions.

“We are not the only municipality to do so. There are also concerns from the operators about the non-transparency as well,” he said. “The province has been very good in hearing those, but to date we haven’t seen any change in that regard.”

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