Vernon council won’t revisit its decision to cap cannabis retail outlets in the business improvement area at six but will look at an application that was originally caught off-guard by council’s vote. (File photo)

Vernon council won’t revisit cannabis retail moratorium

Councillor makes request after application caught in process

A request to revisit the City of Vernon’s moratorium on cannabis retail stores in the business improvement area (BIA) was soundly defeated.

Earlier this year, council put the moratorium in place with the provision to revisit its decision in a year. But Coun. Brian Quiring called for the issue to be back on the table following a presentation from lawyer Harpreet Nahal, representing the Vernon Cannabis Store which made an application for a store in the 3100-block of 29th Avenue on April 19, four days before council made its motion to cap stores at six.

Due to the timing of the application and subsequent rule change, Nahal said, the originally proposed store was not able to obtain approval. And, Nahal said, the city did not have a clear process as to how applications in the BIA beyond the six to be allowed would be dealt with.

“This stuff is legal. It’s a business. People are caught up in the application process and here we are kind of having to wriggle around our own rules,” Quiring said. “I think it’s ridiculous that we capped it. This industry is going to have a few successes and lots of failures. It’s going to be self-policing.”

Coun. Akbal Mund said the moratorium was put in place because residents didn’t want every second store in the BIA to be a cannabis dispensary.

“That was very evident before legalization (in October 2018),” Mund said. “We didn’t say it would be the end, but I think it’s a little early to be asking to change.”

READ MORE: Smash and grab at Okanagan pot shop

Nahal said that as of June 25, his client still had no response as to how their application would be handled nor did the provincial Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) and Nahal said it was made clear shortly thereafter that such stores could be held in limbo for many months so the decision was made to look elsewhere in the City of Vernon.

On July 24, Vernon Cannabis Store (VCS) entered into a lease deal in the 3100-block of 48th Avenue, outside the BIA, and requested to the LCRB to transfer the application. But Nahal said the applicant was told to cancel the original application and reapply. The notification came back on July 29, the same day council approved a motion to stop any new applications for retail cannabis sales from being accepted for consideration.

“At this time, VCS has expended considerable amounts of time and resources to set up this small business and is hoping to have such efforts reviewed on tier merits,” Nahal said.

Council voted unanimously to bring back the Vernon Cannabis Store application for 48th Avenue for consideration.

Later in the meeting, council voted to defeat a notice of motion put forward by Coun. Kari Gares to change moratorium bylaw that would have limited the amount of cannabis retail outlets that are within a 500-metre radius of one another.

Editor’s note: Coun. Dalvir Nahal was absent from Tuesday’s meeting and did not take part in the discussions. Harpreet Nahal is a second cousin.

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