Gibsons council has issued a temporary use permit (TUP) for the S&M Medicinal Sweet Shoppe, despite the store owners’ stance that they won’t apply for a provincial non-medicinal cannabis retail licence.
A report from the planning department presented at the Jan. 8 council meeting recommended against issuing the proposed one-year TUP based on input from neighbours, School District No. 46 and RCMP.
The report said the Town had received five written submissions, three opposed to the TUP and two in support. “The most commonly heard concern with the business was its marketing and signage,” the report said.
The submission from the SD46 board noted that the location, 706 Gibsons Way, falls just inside the 300-metre buffer zone they’ve requested around schools and that it had concerns “with the company’s current marketing choices, in particular images of candies, which may be seen as appealing to young persons.”
One of the neighbours who wrote in support also added they felt changes to the storefront should be considered, but that “refusing them a TUP would cause undo suffering to many.”
The RCMP response said their position is that cannabis retailers “need to follow the established process implemented by the Provincial Government. Anyone who is not operating legally under this process can and may be subject to investigation by the BC Provincial Community Safety Unit and their investigations will be supported by the RCMP.”
The RCMP also said, “Some shops on the Coast have operated as medical cannabis storefronts… Someone with a medical cannabis storefront would be subject to investigation by the Community Safety Unit as they are operating outside the legal framework.”
S&M owners Michelle and Doug Sikora have said in the past they plan to advocate for recognition as a medical cannabis dispensary, something the federal government has not allowed for storefront retailers. Michelle Sikora also told council that the recent confirmation that cannabis edibles would be added to the list of legal products in October opens up a possible avenue to pursue a licence, but as things stand now they are not applying to the province and remain committed to the idea of selling only to people with medical cannabis certificates.
“That’s truly what we’re about, that’s what we’ve always been about. It’s our own moral compass that guides us to say we want to serve medical patients because we want to able to provide that option,” she said.
Sikora also said they’re willing to work with the Town on the look of the store’s façade.
Five employees and clients of S&M spoke in support of granting the TUP.
After hearing those presentations, Coun. Stafford Lumley proposed the alternate option and granting a one-year TUP with conditions around signage and the restriction that “the business storefront shall not contain flashing lights, inflatable objects, and any paraphernalia that appears to target young persons.”
Lumley said that would fit the direction the previous council had been heading on cannabis retail, and would be fair given that others who’ve already been given TUPs were also selling cannabis prior to legalization.
“You have a business, you have employees, you service customers that need medicinal products, so I think I’d like to see the issuance [of the TUP] with adjustments to the façade of the building,” he said.
Coun. David Croal seconded Lumley’s motion. He said his only concern was the look of the store and felt if the Sikoras were willing to make changes he could support a TUP.
Coun. Annemarie De Andrade made similar comments.
Mayor Bill Beamish was the lone vote against issuing the permit, saying that he understands the Sikoras’ position and “what you do in the community” but couldn’t support allowing the business to operate if the owners won’t be applying for provincial licensing.
“I’d like to work with you, but you’re not giving us anything to work with,” he said.
Coun. Aleria Ladwig recused herself from the debate because she owns a neighbouring property.
As of Jan. 9, the province had granted just five licences for non-medical cannabis retailers, two in Vancouver, two in Kimberly and one in Pouce Coupe.