Nelson council denies exemptions for cannabis dispensaries

Most dispensaries will have to apply for temporary use permits

Nelson City Council approved two business license applications for medical marijuana dispensaries and denied two requests for exemptions on Tuesday evening.

In May, council approved the applications of five dispensaries but refused the applications of the Cannabis Compassion Club and Canna Clinic because the two businesses did not meet some of the requirements of the city’s Medical Cannabis Business Licence Bylaw. Since then, both businesses have re-applied.

On Tuesday, council approved Canna Clinic’s new application because the business has now provided a security plan, complied with the signage/transparency requirements, and provided a proper ventilation system.

Council also approved the Compassion Club’s new application on the condition that it come into compliance with the bylaw by having more than one employee on-site, a lease agreement, a third-party monitored security and fire alarm system, and transparent street-front windows.

But wait: having a business license application approved does not mean the business has been granted a licence. It just means the city has agreed to receive the application.

To get licenced, there is a second step.

A medical cannabis business has to not only meet the requirements of the bylaw, but it has to comply with zoning regulations that require that cannabis businesses not be located within a certain distance of each other, or from a school or the youth centre.

Six of the seven potential licensees are not in compliance with zoning because they exist in a downtown cluster and close to the youth centre. The exception is Medical Mary Jane, which plans to set up shop in the Nelson Commons building.

So the other six, to continue operating, all have to apply for a three-year non-renewable temporary use permit – two of them have already done this – while the city waits for further instructions from the federal government on how such businesses should be regulated. Temporary use permits must be approved by council.

In the case of the Compassion Club, it will first have to satisfy the bylaw conditions listed above, and then it can apply for a temporary use permit.

There’s another hitch. The bylaw allows for a maximum of six medical marijuana dispensaries in Nelson, and there are currently seven applicants.

Whoever is the last one to apply for a temporary use permit may have to argue that the bylaw be changed or varied to allow for seven.

Council voted to accept Canna Clinic’s and the Compassion Club’s applications, with councillors Bob Adams and Janice Morrison voting against.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the Compassion Club and the Kootenay’s Medicine Tree (whose application was accepted in May) requested exemptions from some of the regulations.

The Compassion Club asked to be exempt from all or part of the $5,000 business licence fee, a third-party monitored fire alarm system, the requirement that two staff be working at all times, and the requirement that street-facing windows must be transparent.

The Kootenay’s Medicine Tree asked for a reduction the $5,000 fee, or installment payments.

Council voted to deny the requests on the grounds that to change the rules for one business and not others is unfair, and that to reduce a licence fee or allow it to be paid in installments amounts to council assisting a business, which is specifically prohibited by the Community Charter (the provincial legislation that governs municipalities).

Related:

Cannabis: Nelson council grants five licences, refuses two (May 2, 2017)

Nelson council passes cannabis bylaws (March 7, 2017)

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