Editorial: Canna-wait dragging on

Just over a year after the province began accepting applications for non-medicinal cannabis retail licences, and several years after the first storefront marijuana outlets appeared on the Sunshine Coast, the area has its first fully government sanctioned pot shop. (See story page 4.)

If the road to general public acceptance of cannabis as a medicine, health supplement and recreational drug in Canada has been an Autobahn, the road to full legalization and sensible regulation has been more like a goat track across some remote mountain range.

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The federal Cannabis Act was passed in early 2018, although it didn’t come into force until October of that year, and B.C. introduced its legislation in April 2018 and began accepting applications to operate marijuana retail locations that August.

At the time there were predictions of 18-month waits at the least, and for many applicants that prediction is proving accurate.

According to the latest figures from the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, of the 140 completed applications filed from the Greater Vancouver/Sunshine Coast area, only 15 stores have been granted licences. Province-wide there have been 62.

The slow pace of licensing in B.C. is surely one of the reasons the province has seen only $19.5 million in sales to far.

In Alberta, by contrast, 156 retailers are now licensed to sell cannabis and sales have topped $123 million.

Last November, when Gibsons council endorsed Coastal Bay Cannabis’ licence application, mayor Bill Beamish congratulated the owners on being “the first ones to go through the minefield of our process and help us to learn.”

One of Coastal Bay’s co-owners described the licensing process to Coast Reporter this week as a “huge learning curve” for everyone involved, including governments.

Speaking earlier this year during a discussion of Sechelt’s proposed cannabis zoning bylaw, mayor Darnelda Siegers remarked on the “moving target” as the federal and provincial governments continue to tweak their rules.

Neither Sechelt nor Gibsons has adopted final zoning rules for non-medicinal cannabis production or retailing, preferring instead to issue temporary use permits for the time being – so while they’re at the whim of moving targets from senior governments they could be doing better at setting the local targets for potential retailers.

At least one cannabis entrepreneur who waited to apply for permits in Gibsons is in limbo because while council voted to give existing shops Temporary Use Permits (TUP) it declared a defacto moratorium on new TUPs until it decides on new zoning rules.

Sechelt has yet to consider any referrals from the province because its bylaw is also still a work in progress, although very close to completion. At the same meeting where she made the moving target comments, mayor Siegers admitted the wait for the bylaw to pass has the applicants “behind the eight-ball as well.”

Maybe the fact that the B.C. government now wants to set itself up in the local cannabis market will help speed things along.

It’s been legal to sell recreational cannabis for nearly a year, and as the Scots might say, the people who want into the market canna wait much longer.

© Copyright Coast Reporter

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