Change of heart on pot shop

Another cannabis store has been officially added to the race for the first legal store in the Okanagan, after Lake Country council made a quick turnaround Tuesday night, approving its first store.

After council voted 4-3 to deny a variance application by Compass Cannabis Clinic earlier this month that would allow the company's Starbuds retail store within a 400-metre buffer zone of a nearby daycare, council received more than 20 letters of support for the store from members of the community.

Within 24 hours of the initial decision, Mayor James Baker had scheduled a second chance for the company to plead its case, and on Tuesday night, council voted 7-0 in favour of the variance application.

“There was a strong community outreach, a strong amount of support, and it was very vocal support,” said Dave Martyn, president of Starbuds and Compass Cannabis Clinics. “I've never heard cheering and applause at a city council meeting before.”

While Martyn was critical of council's initial decision, claiming it was made based on stigma rather than facts, he says they should be commended for being flexible.

“I think council of Lake Country delivered a message that they are open for business and they do listen to the voice of the people," he said. “There is a cannabis voice in the Okanagan, and it hasn't been necessarily heard or respected up to this point. I think last night was a message though that the voice is going to be heard."

Kelowna city council is currently reviewing 41 proposed cannabis stores, but stores aren't expected to open until early summer of 2019. Enderby also approved its first cannabis store Monday, while Summerland approved its first retail cannabis store last week.

The Lake Country clinic, located in the Turtle Bay Crossing development, has been under construction leading up to Tuesday's decision, and it will undergo a security inspection by the province later this week.

Martyn expects to open the doors in early January.

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