Against cannabis downtown

A Summerland business owner has begun circulating a petition asking district council to exclude cannabis retail stores from the downtown area.

Roch Fortin, owner of Maple Roch on Victoria Road, says he isn't against marijuana, but was alarmed when he noticed a sign pop up on the same street as his business indicating a cannabis store might be coming in. 

"It's such a little area. We have two schools, two churches, a food bank, a huge park," Fortin said. "It's an issue that needs to be re-discussed with council."

Summerland council has so far put no restrictions on the number of cannabis stores in town. Fortin's petition asks for a cap, and a minimum difference of 750 metres between the shops. 

"There's no limit. Is it going to be five, 20, 30, 40?" Fortin said. "[The district] gets a $400 license fee from it, and that's it. Is it worth it?"

He said the petition has already garnered over 25 signatures from other downtown business owners in less than a day. 

"Now we're realizing it's in our backyard," Fortin said. "We need to ask, does it make sense downtown?"

Fortin's perspective on downtown is that it is a place that pulls in business from tourists.

"We have to be progressive and look at businesses that can help our downtown grow, and what tourists are looking for," Fortin said. "I don't think anyone from Vancouver is driving here because they heard about a pot shop."

He acknowledged that being vocal about the issue, especially now after several cannabis stores are already in the process of seeking approval from the District of Summerland, might not win him fans.

"It's risky to speak out. But if you don't speak out, at what cost does that come?" Fortin said. 

Summerland has been moving forward with retail cannabis applications since November, with members of council expressing excitement about potentially being the first community in the Okanagan to have a legal cannabis store. 

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