My name is Russ Stevenson, and for the past five years, I have been involved in the retail cannabis industry.
I spent three years working with the city to set up a medical marijuana access system for the city of Vernon. One of our partners had meetings with the mayor, council, RCMP, downtown business society, and a few more as well. Wayne Lippert, who was the mayor at the time, even went to UBCM with the questions about opening a medical marijuana store.
Because of this we were able to build a system to regulate where, how, and to whom products are sold. The city was able to offer us a proper business licence and a framework to operate under. With the changes in local government all of these gains have been lost. It is very unfortunate that the city, or the city bylaw, chose to stop issuing our business licences as this stopped any regulations we had previously set up.
After that we had a huge influx in stores popping up, some running a model that was not in the interest of the city or its residents.
In November of 2017, there was a city council meeting where they stated that due to the overwhelming number of shops they were forced to put a freeze on any new start-ups. This did not work because without business licences you have no way to regulate. The next move was to write in all retail sales of marijuana to be illegal in all areas of Vernon.
With promises of getting our business licence back on the wall, they asked us to put a covenant on our buildings. This was not an easy task for most stores because not many operators own their buildings. Some paid their landlords large amounts of money for this privilege, and a few had to close. In my case, I own my building so cost was my only obstacle. When this was requested by the city they gave us a timeline that it must be completed before. They also said that any club that opened after Nov. 14, 2017, could not apply. The city extended this timeline at least three times as every time I went in to see where our licences were I was told they were still not ready.
Finally they decided they would make up a special permit to allow us to operate through until we had our provincial recreational licencing. We have asked the city for a letter of support to go forward, and they have refused!! After all that, jumping through all their hoops, they say they have not done the marijuana bylaws yet. Did they not know marijuana was coming?
The covenant that was put on our buildings cost me $2,000, the next step was the special permit to operate for $500, a processing fee of $600, and $5,000 for a business licence. We have co-operated and paid all our fees and the city will not supply us with a letter of support.
Now we hear city council member Dalvir Nahal on the radio saying that she is disappointed in the clubs for not applying for provincial licencing.
If we apply without the letter from the city we have less chance of getting our licencing from the province. If the province approves us we still have to apply with the city and could be turned down. We need our support up front.
We love what we do and the people we can help, but at what cost? We need the support of the city and that might take the public voicing their opinion via phone campaign to the mayor and councillors.