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By the ounce  

Exorbitant cannabis fees

The cost of doing business can be revealing.

Take West Kelowna. It has three basic tiers for business licence renewals:

  • One at $60 a year
  • A second at $135 a year that takes into account a fire inspection
  • A third at $360 a year that considers a need for both fire and policing.

Cannabis stores fall into the third category – along with body rub parlours, escort services, and nightclubs.

To its credit, West Kelowna is by far one of the most affordable places in the Okanagan to renew a business licence as a cannabis retailer.

Other communities in the Valley single them out with sky-high fees.

Across the bridge in Kelowna, the yearly business licence renewal fee for a cannabis store is $9,465.

Pressure is mounting for municipalities to consider treating them equitably.

Earlier this month, Vancouver councillors voted to lower that city’s whopping $34,000 yearly fee.

(In contrast, Vancouver liquor stores pay $429.)

Sarah Ballantyne, who owns Spiritleaf Vernon, wrote a letter earlier this month to Mayor Victor Cumming requesting the city consider lowering its fees.

“As you know, the Cannabis Retail Application fee for the City of Vernon is $5,000 and the Cannabis Business Licensing fee is set at $2,000/annually,” wrote Ballantyne. “This fee is much higher than any other business licensing fee in Vernon.”

She argues a liquor store similar in size to her cannabis store would pay a much lower rate of $185 per year.

Ballantyne says keeping the fee so high is unreasonable.

Vernon’s $2,000 renewal fee is more than double any other renewal fee — except that of a casino, which is also $2,000.

The City of Vernon says its administration will be reviewing the fees and reporting back to council. That report is anticipated later this year.

“City fees are supposed to be commensurate with the cost to provide the service,” says city spokeswoman Christy Poirier.

“When the renewal fee of $2,000 was recommended and adopted, the city had the experience of over a dozen retailers in the community pre-legalization.

“The service process required a great deal of staff time through various departments, including Planning, Building and Licensing, Bylaws, and sometimes Fire, which led to the fee that was recommended.”

It’s clear that there’s still a ways to go before cannabis retail is treated just like any other business.

Municipalities in the Okanagan should look to Penticton, where the yearly business license fee for a cannabis store is $180 —the same as other retail stores.

David Wylie is publisher of the oz. Find print copies of the oz. magazine at Spiritleaf locations around the Okanagan, Green Gaia in Penticton and Summerland, as well as Lake Country Cannabis. Email the author at [email protected].

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About the Author

David Wylie is publisher of the oz. — a cannabis newsletter that covers the growing legal weed industry from the Okanagan Valley.

He has been a journalist for nearly two decades, working in newsrooms all over Canada.  

David is active as okanaganz on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. Subscribe to the email newsletter at okanaganz.com.

An ounce of info goes a long way.

 

 



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