LETTER: Cannabis shop should be welcomed by Sidney

In 2001, the federal government established the Medical Marijuana Access Program to regulate the use of medical cannabis. The industry evolved as researchers and doctors, using evidence-based research, developed cannaboid-based products to help people manage a range of medical conditions, especially pain.

The knowledge gained about the health, medical, and recreational potential of cannabis and derivatives led ultimately to the legalization of cannabis in October 2018. On Aug. 12, 2019, Sidney council sent a strong message of support for potential cannabis store operators by amending its zoning bylaw allowing cannabis sales in the Downtown Commercial Area (including Beacon) and by passing Liquor & Cannabis Licensing Policy DV-O1.

Happy Buddha applied to the LCRB, took out a lease on a store on Beacon, and formally submitted an application to Sidney, having met LCRB regulations/requirements and believing that they had also met Sidney’s, aware that their window treatment might need negotiation.

Sidney staff suggested options about windows to council, ranging from rejecting the application to negotiation with the applicant, noting that this store “will likely lead to increased foot traffic and commerce…benefit[ing] surrounding businesses economically.”

On October 28, 2019, council rejected negotiation and also rejected the application. In a subsequent Supreme Court of B.C. decision, the judge ruled that the town could not require a window treatment differing from provincial LCRB rules. However, the LCRB, in July 2020, dropped the requirement for opaque windows. The judge also ruled that Sidney had failed properly to solicit input from nearby residents before making their decision, as required by LCRB rules.

Happy Buddha’s resubmitted application was heard by council on Aug. 12. A thorough, accompanying six-page staff report noted that the applicant had met and/or exceeded all LCRB and Sidney requirements, including location, security, visibility of product, training of staff, etc. Staff recommended a robust public process.

Some councilors are clearly opposed to cannabis sales, citing VIHA concerns to children and young people. There seems to be an underlying sense that somehow this is a less than respectable business enterprise, somewhat seedy, exposing our children to unsavory elements.

Frankly, that’s a red herring. A Douglas Magazine article recently noted that the major purchasers of cannaboid products in retail outlets are over 50, meaning that those under 50 are purchasing them elsewhere, precisely what we all want to avoid. Regulated cannabis sales actually protect us and our children from the problems of an unregulated environment.

Furthermore, everyone, including, I’m sure, the proponents, want to see the best for our children. Be clear, cannaboids in cannabis retail outlets will not be visible from the street to children and young people, unlike alcohol in liquor stores and outdoor restaurants (on Beacon).

Happy Buddha has met all the regulatory requirements to run a business on a street designated by council as appropriate for cannabis sales. Sidney should welcome businesses which seek to add value to our community.

Clarence Bolt

Sidney

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