Kelowna to revisit its cannabis store philosophy

Published on July 30, 2021 by David Wylie

Kelowna city council needs to wax philosophical about cannabis retail stores, according to one city councillor.

Coun. Brad Sieben says a “robust philosophical discussion” is needed about how council will approach cannabis retail applicants. He says they haven’t been consistent in their decision making.

  • RELATED: The problem with phantom pot shops in downtown Kelowna

This week a divided council approved two more cannabis stores downtown— Hemp City and Green Pineapple—both on Bernard Avenue. The vote caused a backlash from other cannabis retail owners in the area, saying the city was opening itself up to an onslaught of new applications that don’t conform to distance bylaws.

Afterwards, council decided it was high time to revisit its views on cannabis stores, directing city staff to present a report.

At the end of Tuesday’s public hearing, Coun. Gail Given put forward the motion for staff to bring back a report on a “potential moratorium” on cannabis stores—or potential ways to quash the threat of a flood of non-conforming applications.

Some councillors suggested a review of current bylaws may actually have the opposite effect by loosening the rules.

Coun. Charlie Hodge pointed out that council makes exceptions all the time for all types of applications. He says the city won’t look “stupid” or “foolish” by reassessing its positions.

“I don’t feel any pressure by doing it. I think it’s a healthy exercise to go through. Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” he says.

Coun. Mohini Singh says legal cannabis was a new concept when the city set its bylaws.

“It was the new gold rush,” she says. “We didn’t know what would come of it.”

Has Kelowna reached a saturation point?

When the bylaws were originally discussed counsillors considered distances from other cannabis shops, as well as parks and schools. However, they did not take into consideration population density.

Counsillors have also wondered if we have reached a saturation point for cannabis retailers.

Previously, some councillors had expressed concern that although two pot shops had been approved for downtown Kelowna, neither has yet opened, despite the considerable number of people who live and work downtown and its draw as a major tourist attraction.

Voting in favour of the new stores were councillors Gail Given, Charlie Hodge, Mohini Singh, Ryan Donn, and Mayor Colin Basran. Opposed were councillors Maxine DeHart, Brad Sieben, and Luke Stack. Coun. Loyal Wooldridge was away.

— with files from The Daily Courier