Cannabis stores in Vernon will need to keep their distance from one another in the future.
Vernon council voted in favour of a bylaw amendment that would prevent cannabis stores from being within a 500-metre radius of any other cannabis retailers.
The motion was brought forward by Coun. Kari Gares, who noted a high number of retail store applications since the legalization of cannabis, and an over-saturation of retail stores in the downtown core, which is currently home to six.
“I believe that this is a great way for us to ensure that we don’t have over-saturation and allow the markets to manage themselves,” Gares said. “If some of these businesses fail, that would mean there will be clusters of empty buildings in our city.”
The 500-metre buffer is similar to regulations on liquor stores, which must be 1,000-metres apart. There are also restrictions that prevent cannabis stores from being near schools, park and playgrounds.
Coun. Scott Anderson voted in favour of the motion, adding he’s heard that the Vernon area has the highest concentration of cannabis stores in the province.
“That’s not something I would like Vernon to be known for,” he said.
Coun. Dalvir Nahal said she knows some retailers have been struggling due to the over-saturated market.
“I don’t want downtown to be just pawn shops and pot shops,” Nahal said. “That’s not a good representation.”
The bylaw won’t affect existing stores in Vernon, or the eight applications that are currently stuck in the pipeline until the city’s current moratorium on new cannabis stores is lifted.
Existing stores won’t be penalized if they are within 500 metres of another store. But if they were to close, a new cannabis store won’t be able to take their place.
With the moratorium to end shortly, Gares said now is a good time to implement a regulation that will ultimately allow the local cannabis market to manage itself, without council having to process new applications.
“It will allow the market to dictate itself as opposed to mayor and council,” she said. “It would allow regulation to happen naturally.”
Coun. Akbal Mund was in favour of the motion but expressed that 500 metres goes a long way in Vernon’s downtown.
“It’s 700 metres from the Nature’s Fare to the Nixon Wenger building,” he said. “This may, in the future, limit the downtown core to one or two stores.”
Mund also attributed much of the over-saturation in the market to the so-called “green mile” of cannabis shops on First Nations land along Westside Road, as well as the Enderby and West Kelowna areas.
“The market already has been over-saturated because of what goes on First Nations lands,” he said. “Cost is different … It’s like gas prices: people don’t have any loyalty, they will go where they can get the best price.”