West Kelowna  

Door open for gov't pot

The Liquor Distribution Branch will be able to apply for a cannabis retail licence in West Kelowna after all.

Council reversed a decision late last month that initially blocked the province from applying for a government cannabis store.

The initial 3-3 vote effectively blocked the application, however, Mayor Gord Milsom asked that council reconsider the request this week when all councillors were present.

Coun. Rick de Jong, who was not at the first meeting, cast the tie-breaking vote in favour of moving the application forward.

The vote does not mean the government has been granted approval, but instead, allows it to make a rezoning application, which would then move through the municipal pipeline, including a public hearing.

That was the rationale for de Jong's vote.

"I am looking at this as a litmus test. I want to hear from the public," said de Jong.

"When we developed the policy under the previous council, we chose four. We thought it was a nice way to start ... but it was an arbitrary number. This council voted to go to five, but what is the right number?"

De Jong said he wants to see a public hearing packed with people providing their input as to what the correct number is.

Councillors Findlater, Friesen and Zanon all voted against the province as they did during the previous discussion.

"I don't believe it makes sense to add another store in this unproven, uncertain and untested environment," said Zanon. "We are trying to protect our youth, and here we have it flagrantly across the street in the line of vision of the elementary school. I'm somewhat enraged and saddened. I really don't like it."

While the official application from the province came after the city's intake process followed by private applicants, council was told the government had expressed interest long before. That was a fact never presented to council until now.

If the application does successfully navigate the municipal process, it would be the sixth non-medical cannabis store in the city. That would be on top of any that may be allowed on Westbank First Nation land.

It is currently not allowed on WFN land, however, the band is studying the idea.

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