A shop on Marine Drive in Gibsons is the first non-medical cannabis retailer on the Sunshine Coast to get a provincial licence.
Coastal Bay Cannabis, which started business as The Healing Hut before recreational cannabis was legalized, was one of the first local retailers to apply last August under the new federal and B.C. government rules.
Gibsons council voted to support the store’s application last November, and co-owner Brenda Harris said they hope to reopen as a government-sanctioned cannabis store on Sept. 6.
Harris said the licensing process has been a “huge learning curve” for potential retailers, the government and institutions like banks that are still working through new rules and new policies.
“It’s new to everyone. It was a hard thing to navigate,” she said, adding that it’s also been exciting to see the business make the transition to a fully legal enterprise.
Coastal Bay, and previously Healing Hut, had been operating with a town-issued business licence and temporary use permit, but chose to stop selling product and wait for the provincial licence to come through after the Community Safety Unit (CSU) visited the Sunshine Coast in mid-June.
The ministry of public safety said at the time that the goal was to follow up with unlicensed retailers “for the purposes of education and to raise awareness about cannabis laws.”
The CSU hasn’t taken any enforcement action so far on the Sunshine Coast, although it warned local retailers enforcement could be the next step, and staying open without a licence could also lead to applications being rejected.
Weeds, a chain of cannabis stores based in Vancouver, recently closed its Sechelt dispensary and the associated business Mary Jane’s Alternative Health Centre. A sign posted on the door reads, “Closed permanently thanks to our NDP government (Don’t forget to vote).”
The store manager told Coast Reporter they plan to re-open during the last week of September to hold a clearance sale of Mary Jane’s stock, and then the space will likely be rented to a new retailer with a recreational cannabis licence.
Weeds has also closed some locations in Vancouver.
Michelle Sikora of S&M Medicinal Sweet Shoppe in Gibsons said they continue to operate under a strictly medicinal cannabis model, requiring clients to have a doctor’s prescription to purchase product.
Sikora also said they’re continuing to push for changes to the federal cannabis regulations to allow medicinal users to purchase from storefront shops instead of being restricted to a Heath Canada approved list of producers, and they’re “prepared for a fight” if it comes to legal action.
The owners of 420 Hemp Shop in Sechelt, which has a temporary use permit from the municipality and a provincial licence application pending, told customers via Facebook June 22, “We have decided it is in the best interest of this community that we stay open while we wait for our licence to be fully approved, at least initially. Soon, however, we may find it prudent to suspend our cannabis retail operations.”
There are also two other cannabis sellers with pending provincial licence applications, SunCoast Culture in Sechelt and the Rainforest Compassion Club in Gibsons. Neither responded to requests for updates on their status.
And while private retailers on the Sunshine Coast await word on their licence applications, the local market is also being eyed by the B.C. government.
The province’s Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) applied June 27 for a rezoning that would allow a BC Cannabis Store location in Sunnycrest Mall in Gibsons, where the LDB already runs a liquor store. The LDB is holding a public information session on its application Sept. 10.