City opens up for legal pot

The City of Penticton is throwing its existing retail cannabis policy out the window, and moving towards a more liberal cap-based system.

Council voted Tuesday 4-3 to eliminate the existing buffer-zone system and move to a policy that will instead simply cap the number of stores city-wide at 14 and 7 downtown.

City council will still need to endorse each proposed shop, but applications will no longer be pitted against each other through 300 metre buffer zones that limited shop’s proximity to each other.

City council last month approved four cannabis storefronts, but did not have the stomach to fully deny the other four that did not obtain a recommendation from staff due to conflicts in buffer zones with other stores.

Coun. Julius Bloomfield called the previous system “extremely difficult to manage.”

“It was extremely costly and took a lot of staff time doing the evaluation for each applicant. It proved to be argumentative, subjective,” he said. “This whole process, may be well planned, but it didn’t work.”

Planning manager Blake Laven said the previous buffer zone system would have naturally limited cannabis stores to four downtown and 9-10 city-wide.

He called the new cap system “a minor change” that still takes into account public consultation that requested some sort of limit on legal cannabis stores.

Almost 70 per cent of participants in the city’s outreach on retail cannabis requested some sort of cap on storefronts, with 42 per cent suggesting the number of liquor stores as a good measuring stick. Thirty per cent said there should be no cap at all and the market should decide.

There are currently 10 liquor stores operating in Penticton.

Fifty-five per cent of survey respondents said stores should be prevented from setting up too close to each other.

Different councillors perceived the results of public outreach differently, with Frank Regehr calling the new system “not out of line” with what the public asked for and Katie Robinson maintaining the public wants a much tighter lid on legal cannabis than 14 stores.

She tried to have the cap lowered to 10-12, but failed to gain the support of a second councillor to bring the amendment to the floor.

The motion to move to the cap system passed 4-3, with Mayor John Vassilaki and Couns. Katie Robinson and Jake Kimberley opposed.

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