2 dispensaries approved

Dustin Godfrey

Penticton city council has provided temporary use permits for two of the seven potential dispensaries in the city, putting an end to a months-long process by City Hall to regulate the businesses.

The decision, which marks a first for the Okanagan, came with a great deal of debate among a divided council, with Coun. Tarik Sayeed absent from the meeting, making an even amount of councillors.

Council looked at each application individually, but following the first application for Okanagan Cannabinoid Therapy, saw public comment, a debate over whether or not to allow the businesses to operate before federal legalization is enacted.

Coun. Campbell Watt and Helena Konanz were explicitly against the city permitting the dispensaries before federal laws allowed it, and initially Coun. Judy Sentes also showed resistance.

However, after multiple votes on the first application showed a stalemate among the six councillors, with ties meaning a failed vote, Sentes offered to make a concession: to vote in favour of the three dispensaries that didn’t operate in contravention of city council’s orders.

Those three were Green Essence, Okanagan Cannabinoid Therapy – formerly Starbudz – and Avitas. The latter of those three, however, was ultimately denied due to its proximity to Carmi Elementary School.

The issue saw more than two-and-a-half hours of discussion between councillors and attendees, including patients and operators, with emotions running high at times.

Theresa Chapman spoke to the difficulty in growing marijuana by oneself, while another attendee spoke to his experience in attempting to go through one of the 32 federally licensed sellers.

He said that was an inconvenient process that often required a credit card, long wait times and a lack of consultation on how best to use the product.

Others still, spoke out against the city approving the applications, saying they could be a liability, legally and in terms of health and safety, for the community.

“There is no regulatory body overlooking the sale of cannabis,” said one attendee. “In issuing a permit, permitting the sale of this product without a community would suggest we’re willing to adopt certain liabilities.”

Council, itself, was torn, with Watt and Konanz saying they felt they were not in a position to decide which dispensaries were better than others, noting that decision would be best left to federal regulators.

Still, Mayor Andrew Jakubeit, Coun. Andre Martin and Coun. Max Picton said they were torn on the issue, ultimately landing on the side of approving some of the dispensaries.

Picton told the room he felt the best choice would be the one that would allow some sense of control for the city: permitting some of the dispensaries, forcing them to abide by rules set out by the city.

He suggested that if dispensaries were all shut down, those buying their product would move from the grey market to the black market.

Those two dispensaries will be able to operate for six months under the permit.

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