The problem with phantom pot shops in downtown Kelowna

Published on July 1, 2021 by The Daily Courier

The narrow storefront in white on Bernard Avenue could become a cannabis store.

Proposals for two pot shops on Bernard Avenue in downtown Kelowna will go to public hearings.

Council approved them, despite the staff recommendation that the applications be denied due rules specifying at least 500 metres separation between cannabis stores.

Meanwhile, two previously-approved downtown pot shops have yet to open, despite being approved two years ago.

“Who knew that none of them would actually be open, two years later,” said Coun. Gail Given. “It’s really quite astounding.”

One new pot shop is proposed by Lee Schurian, owner of Hemp City, inside the existing store at 520 Bernard Ave. The other, the Green Pineapple, is proposed for 266 Bernard Ave. by Krista Lusted.

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“I’m curious to hear from the public, what they think about the proposals,” said Coun. Ryan Donn.

Having no cannabis stores open downtown, almost four years after the drug’s legalization, is a “deficit” the city did not anticipate, Donn said.

The city’s approach to municipally regulating pot shops may explain why the two previously approved downtown cannabis stores have not yet opened.

The 500-metre spacing requirement can give an approved-operator effective control over a considerable area, although council can choose to waive the restriction.

A lease for one of the downtown properties where council previously granted the zoning change necessary to allow cannabis sales recently sold for almost $700,000, council heard. But there’s still no sign of the store actually opening, council heard.

Councillor dismayed by ‘unseen horsetrading’

Several councillors remarked on the unusual situation which now exists in which downtown Kelowna, home to hundreds of stores and thousands of homes, has no open pot shops.

Coun. Loyal Wooldridge said he was dismayed by what he called the “unseen horsetrading” that’s going on with cannabis store approvals flipping hands and stores not yet opening.

Coun. Mohini Singh lamented the apparent desire of those with pot shop approvals wanting to “make some money and move on” rather than actually open a cannabis retail outlet.

But Coun. Gail Given said the city had “good intentions” with its pot shop regulatory licensing approach. And she said that, although the two existing properties where zoning allows for pot sales might not yet have cannabis stores, they eventually will.

For now, it’s an open question how many pot shops may open in downtown Kelowna.

“I’m not convinced the market will entirely support all of them, but that’s not for me to decide,” Mayor Colin Basran said

— Ron Seymour/The Daily Courier