Nelson council voted to award business licenses to five pot dispensaries on Monday.
All six of the dispensaries currently operating submitted applications as well as a new business, Medical Mary Jane, which plans to move into Nelson Commons.
The application by Canna Clinic was turned down, according to city planner Pam Mierau, because the owners submitted their application on April 19, well past the March 31 deadline, and even then the business was lacking in some of the requirements under Nelson’s bylaw — for instance, they had no security plan, unmet signage requirements, and no proper filtration system.
The other unsuccessful applicant was the Nelson Cannabis Compassion Club, which has been operating in Nelson for 18 years.
“They did not comply with signage requirements, there no security plan and fire alarm, and they only have one employee,” Cormack said.
Nelson’s bylaw, passed on March 6, contains specific requirements including a $5000 business licence (which none of the dispensaries has paid yet), a maximum of six dispensaries in the city, rules regarding signage, a security system including alarms and video surveillance, a minimum of two employees on site at all times, an air filtration system, and no windows blocked by translucent material.
Three of the applicants — Green Room Society, Nelson Potorium, and Medical Mary Jane — met all the requirements. Two others — Kootenays Medicine Tree and Leaf Cross Health Society — were non-compliant in some minor ways which the owners have agreed to fix in the near future as a condition of licensing.
Nelson’s bylaw enforcement officers, building inspector, and fire department each visited each premised to make these determinations.
The city accepted the application by Medical Mary Jane provisionally, based on a plan the business presented to council, even though it has not moved into its premises.
This means there is one licence still available, and two applicants for it — the Compassion Club and Canna Clinic.
But councillor Robin Cherbo told the media later that council could approve a seventh if one of them applied to vary the bylaw.
Mierau told council that she would be meeting with the owners of Canna Clinic and the Compassion Club to talk about whether they want to apply for a variance or come into compliance.
Cormack said the two non-compliant applicants would be given time to come into compliance if they wish to.
“We will not fine them tomorrow. We are not going to take enforcement action (right away).”
Councillor Bob Adams said the entire licensing system should be scrapped until the federal government comes out with more regulatory detail, and voted against the decision to allow the five licences. Councillor Janice Morrision also voted against it.
Other councillors and the mayor voted in favour.
Phil McMillan, the owner of the Compassion Club, was angered by the decision.
He told the media that he had asked city management staff for a form to apply for a variance, and was told he had to go through the business licence application process first, which he has done. So he was surprised when the licencing decision appeared to be a done deal.
He wants the city to vary the requirement to have more than one employee on site at all times, and he doesn’t want to buy an expensive security system when he doesn’t know if he can stay in his current location because of the city’s location requirements.
He wants a break on the $5000 licence fee because his business is a registered non-profit, and he pointed out that in Vancouver a cannabis business licence is $30,000 but reduced to $1,000 for non-profits.
And he said he is unwilling to keep his security gate shutters down because his clients are there for medical reasons and need their privacy.
“My members not only have a legal right to their privacy and their medicine, but I have a legal responsibility to their privacy, and that is the only reason I am not lifting the security gate, which I could do tomorrow.”
He said he had originally thought he could apply to vary these things before a decision was made on whether he would be granted a license.
But Frances Long, the city’s manager of corporate services, told the Star that McMillan will now have to make a formal request for variances, and that they will be decided by council.
“Medical marijuana has been legal since 1999,” McMillan said.
“We are fighting a dispute over regulations. This is a regulatory dispute on how it is sold. But the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that patients have a right to access.”
The materials considered by council including some correspondence between businesses and the city, and a matrix of the city’s reasons for its decision, are attached below.