Smooth sailing for cannabis in Kelowna

Published on April 9, 2019 by David Wylie

Kelowna’s first batch of cannabis retail stores had relatively smooth sailing during a public hearing Tuesday night.

The city’s council gave them all unanimous second and third readings — approving in principal the first seven of 15 applicants.

They include Starbuds, Spiritleaf, Hobo, Cheeba Cheeba’s (Mary Jane’s HQ), and Flora.

“We stuck true to our word,” says Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, adding history was made in the city.

Basran said city council has taken “a fair share of flack” when it shut down illegal dispensaries months before legalization.

“It was never that were opposed, or we were some stuck-in-the-dark-ages council who didn’t want to get with the times,” he says.

The council had promised to follow the legal framework to approve stores, and Basran says they have fulfilled that vow.

“While not everyone will be happy, we will finally have retail outlets in our community — and ahead of other municipalities in the country, I might add.”

A fourth and final reading is needed to make it official, which could take as little as two weeks (or could drag for longer).

The applicants

Starbuds Marketing Director Daniel Winer spoke on behalf of the franchise’s application off Highway 97.

“Approving development permits like these, once that does happen, creates other jobs beyond just budtenders and store managers,” he said. “We have national ambitions. So we talk about creating jobs for developers, marketers, designers, IT people, HR people.”

He says Starbuds works out of the Innovation Centre in the city’s downtown.

Mathew Dober spoke on behalf of cannabis retail brand, Flora.

Owned by Argent Diversified, the company has two applications, one on Bernard Avenue in downtown and another in Glenmore.

Dober says he plans to develop a classy brand.

“I like to compare it to something like a higher end Starbucks or a premium wine store,” he said.

Reid Ogdon spoke on behalf of The Donnelly Group, which has plans for stores in Ontario and B.C.

The company’s proposed Hobo brand store is on Springfield.

“We recently opened a store in Ontario just last week, so we are learning,” he says. “We’re trying to establish a real foothold in Kelowna.”

Steven Jones, who owns Abaco Health, says he plans to divide a section of his store on Gordon Drive for use as a cannabis retail store. He says he’s been a medical cannabis patient for six years and addressed a few letters of opposition.

“We don’t have people drinking in front of local liquor stores, they go home. We expect cannabis users to do the same,” he says. “People taking too much cannabis are more likely to go to Dominos, Subway or to bed.”

The opposition

The most passionate opposition at the hearing involved a completely different type of green.

A handful of residents spoke adamantly against replacing a stretch of recreational golf course greenspace near the 18th hole of Quail Ridge with townhouses.

As far as cannabis goes, only one person spoke against any of the applications at the meeting.

A resident named Estelle said she fears the stores would increase petty thefts in the area.

“I’m afraid to see my quality of life go down because of this,” she says. “I’m afraid it’s going to add more madness to the area”