Our View: New West council shows leadership on cannabis file

If you want to know how the City of New Westminster measures up to other cities when it comes to cannabis stores, just look next door to Burnaby.

The City of Burnaby has done little-to-nothing on approving these stores, despite pot now being legal in this country.

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The city has basically said they won’t even entertain any private stores until a government pot store is approved (and they will only allow a maximum of four government stores despite the city having a population of 250,000). So, basically, maybe a couple of stores will be approved in the coming years.

And, once again, we remind people that pot is now legal in this country.

Meanwhile, tiny little New Westminster has shown it is taking a measured and sophisticated approach to the approvals process to meet a clear demand.

The City of New Westminster considered 22 potential locations for cannabis retailers and whittled that list down to five potential stores.

Between Oct. 24 and Dec. 5, the city received rezoning and business licence applications for cannabis retail stores. Following an evaluation process, staff recommended five applications for retail cannabis stores, including four private stores – Maple Leaf Greenery at 71 Sixth St. (downtown); Muse Cannabis – 532 Sixth St. (uptown); the Herb Co. Cannabis Store – 451 East Columbia St. (Sapperton); and Westcanna – 710 12th St. – and one public store to be operated by B.C. Cannabis Stores at Queensborough Landing Shopping Centre.

At Monday’s meeting, however, council voted four to three to consider the Queensborough Cannabis Co. Ltd.’s application instead of the government store in Queensborough Landing.

Burnaby has put its entire pot eggs into the government basket, but New West has found that the government application was underwhelming.

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).

Not everyone approved of the process. Unsuccessful applicants complained to council about not making the cut. They 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.

But as Coun. Patrick Johnstone said to the unsuccessful applicants, “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.”

Council has directed staff to prepare a zoning amendment bylaw to permit the retail sale of cannabis at the five locations in the city and will consider first and second readings of the bylaw on April 8. The city will hold a public hearing on April 29, at which time council would also consider third reading and adoption of the bylaw.

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