Nelson council has approved three out of four applications for recreational cannabis stores in the city.
Buddy’s Place (currently known as medical cannabis dispensary Leaf Cross) lost a lottery vote at council Monday night. The vote is part of a process that the city put in place last year to decide between competing recreational cannabis businesses.
In 2018, city council developed rules, following a public survey that got 1,779 responses, specifying how many recreational cannabis outlets were allowed in each of four zones of the city — one in the Nelson Ave. zone, one in Railtown, one in Lakeside/Industrial, and two downtown.
Applicants had to apply to council after passing a screening process at the provincial government.
Then council would apply its own criteria including compliance with zoning, and recommend the successful applicants back to the province for licensing.
Over the past few months, the four Nelson business applicants passed the province’s initial screening process.
Kootenays Cannabis Tree (formerly the medical cannabis dispensary Kootenay’s Medicine Tree) applied to convert its current dispensary location on Front Street, and was approved by council because it was the only applicant requesting a spot in the Lakeside-Industrial zone, and also because it got high marks on a scoring matrix developed by council last year.
That matrix gives applicants points based on location, community impact, security plan, owner qualifications, building facade, and interior improvements. Kootenays Cannabis Tree achieved 85 per cent on this test, which was processed and scored by city management.
The other three applicants — Green Room (which achieved 100 per cent), Buddy’s Place (93.5 per cent) and Potorium (100 per cent) — had all applied to locate in the downtown area.
But the city’s zoning bylaw only allows two outlets downtown and provides for a lottery draw in the event that there are competing high-scorers within 10 per cent of each other.
As a result, council voted to recommend Green Room and Potorium to the province for licensing.
Councillor Brittny Anderson said she doesn’t like the lottery process.
In an interview after the meeting, Anderson said, “I think in some cases lotteries make sense, but that should have happened a long time ago, not when people have spent this much time, this much money, preparing, and then to suddenly be completely cut off. I think it’s cruel.”
When it came time to vote on not recommending Buddy’s Place to the province (because it had lost the lottery), Anderson asked that council refrain from voting, leaving it in abeyance.
This would have the effect of not recommending Buddy’s Place to the province and yet not formally disapproving it either, enabling the business to pursue one of three options that were explained to council by planner Alex Thumm:
• apply again, but for an alternative location outside of downtown in one of the zones (Railtown or Nelson Ave.) for which there have so far been no applications,
• apply for a temporary use permit for up to three years, with conditions set by council, renewable only once,
• apply for a land use amendment that would involve a public consultation and public hearing, like any request for a zoning change.
No one at Buddy’s Place (Leaf Health Society) was available for comment on Tuesday.
The lottery draw was conducted by Thumm at the council meeting, using three ping-pong balls and a large bowl.
“Some cities actually purchase lottery machines,” Thumm told council, “and we did not want to do that for a one-off, so we have this bowl, with a lid. We have three Dollar Store ping-pong balls, purchased out-of-pocket for two bucks.”
The balls were numbered, the bowl was shaken by Thumm, and the city’s corporate officer Sarah Winton reached, eyes closed, into the bowl and chose two balls — those with the numbers assigned to Potorium and Green Room.