Plans for a pot shop on Saanich’s border have gone up in smoke after Victoria denied proponents a public hearing.
The proposed shop would have been located on the corner of Tolmie Avenue and Quadra Street, and Saanich residents living within 100 metres of the proposed site would have received public hearing notices under Victoria’s procedures. Victoria staff had recommended a public hearing, because the applicant had met Victoria’s guidelines for pot shops.
“If the application had been moved through to public hearing, Saanich [council] may well have had additional interest as well as local residents,” said Megan Catalano, a spokesperson for the District of Saanich.
But since the application did not go forward, Saanich has declined to publicly comment on the issue. “Saanich staff don’t have a reaction on Victoria council’s decision,” said Catalano.
Saanich – contrary to Victoria – does not license pot shops. But if the application by G.S. Pharmaceuticals had gone forward and received approval, it would have been at least the fourth shop of its kind within the proximity of the Saanich-Victoria border.
While Victoria council ultimately denied the application on grounds of the proposed shop’s proximity to Quadra elementary school following a letter from its parents advisory council, at least one Victoria councillor suggested that its proximity to Saanich played a role.
“Have we talked to Saanich?” asked Coun. Chris Coleman in framing the issue as a question of neighbourliness. “Do we do that? It is an unusual item from that perspective.”
Victoria council also broadly agreed that Saanich should have received notification of the proposal had it gone forward, with the proviso that such a notification should not have included an invitation to respond.
Coun. Geoff Young said it would not be appropriate for Victoria to seek comment from Saanich.
“As a district, they have made a decision,” he said. “They are not supportive of our policy, and I think it is a little hypocritical for us to be asking for them to respond on an issue, when we are already aware of this contradiction.”
Three cannabis retailers currently operate within walking distance from Saanich’s border. Farmacy operates near the intersection of Hillside Avenue and Shelbourne Street, while Trees Dispensary operates near Tolmie Avenue and Douglas Street. Burnside Dispensary, meanwhile, operates at the intersection of Harriet Road and Burnside Road, with the Saanich border just steps away.
Catalano said Saanich neither sought nor offered input of any kind about the failed pot shop proposal, adding Victoria did not solicit input from Saanich as the application was working its way through. Victoria and Saanich have also not communicated about the Burnside Dispensary.
Catalano said Saanich recognizes that Victoria has taken a “different policy approach” to the regulation of marijuana retail.
“Because our municipalities border each other this means that at times there may be conflicting direction taken,” she said. “At this time Saanich awaits clear policy direction from the provincial government on marijuana retailing framework in B.C. leading up to legalization in the province.
Once the provincial government has supplied this framework, Saanich would implement a regulatory and policy framework that aligns with provincial direction and continues to best represent the interests of the residents of Saanich, she said.
Some of those answers have started to arrive, after the provincial government announced that both private and public retailers will sell maijuana, with anyone older than 19 years able to purchase it legally.
The federal government, meanwhile, has announced that the provinces stand to reap 75 per cent of marijuana revenues.