Lower cannabis store fees, says chamber

Published on April 13, 2021 by David Wylie

Vernon city council's agenda Monday includes a strongly worded letter from the Vernon Chamber of Commerce on cannabis fees.

Vernon city council unanimously passed a motion Monday to review its cannabis business licence fees.

The move was made after the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce urged the city to lower its cannabis retail store fees, which are much higher than all other businesses.

Chamber President Krystin Kempton sent a letter April 7 to mayor and council, troubled by business license fees for cannabis stores.

“Specifically, we question why the business license fee for retail cannabis operations is $2,000 annually when the fee for a similar sized liquor store is $185 and $135 annually for any other similar sized business designated RB2-Residential Business?”

The Chamber of Commerce letter quotes a story by the oz., headlined ‘Exorbitant cannabis fees too high’:

“City fees are supposed to be commensurate with the cost to provide the service,” says a city spokeswoman. “When the renewal fee of $2,000 was recommended and adopted, the city had the experience of over a dozen retailers in the community pre-legalization. The service process required a great deal of staff time through various departments, including Planning, Building and Licensing, Bylaws, and sometimes Fire, which led to the fee that was recommended.”

Vernon Chamber of Commerce re: cannabis store fees

Here is the gist of the letter from the Chamber, which is included in the council package for discussion on Monday, April 12.

The reality, though, is that the heavy lifting has already been done in terms of city staff establishing a process to approve retail cannabis operations and to annually charge $2,000 for a license renewal is simply arbitrary and unreasonable. In Penticton, the annual business license fee for all retail stores, including cannabis, is $180.

Unless the city can demonstrate that retail cannabis shops place undue financial pressure on city resources such as policing or bylaw compliance, then there is no justification for $2,000 a year, particularly at a time when our community and economy depend on recovery from the pandemic. Maintaining such a high business license fee could threaten the viability of entrepreneurs and employment opportunities.

We would respectfully request that council instruct administration to initiate an immediate review of business licensing fees for retail cannabis stores and that administration report back to council with recommendations as soon as possible.

The letter is cc’d Spiritleaf Vernon, which sent a letter to Mayor Victor Cumming and has not yet received a response.

City staff have instructed that council direct them to prepare a report reviewing business licensing fees for retail cannabis operations so they can report back.