Squamish city council voted to grant a business license variance to local cannabisdispensary Grass Roots Medicinal tonight, allowing the business to keep its doors open and continue to serve the medical community.
Council initially rejected the operation’s application for a license due to their bylaws that stated dispensaries needed to be 300 metres from the nearest school, Mamquam Elementary School, with the city’s measurement at 240 metres.
The dispensary saw a number of supporters speak to its value in the area, including an assortment of patients who gave testimony on how medical cannabis helped them reduce their dependency on pharmaceuticals, and a group of condo owners in located in the same building as the dispensary
Cannabis Growers of Canada executive director Ian Dawkins, speaking on behalf of the dispensary, said that the business’s own measurement put it at 314 metres from a school yard and that a highway separating the dispensary from the school should be considered a natural barrier that also impedes children from coming near the business.
Dawkins also said Grass Roots is a model member of the Cannabis Growers of Canada trade association, setting a high standard of quality in product and service.
When asked by council how long dispensaries would last, with the forthcoming legalization system from the federal government, Dawkins pointed to American models, where state governments work with independent dispensaries as retailers under a legal system of recreational sales.
Despite receiving two emailed letters of opposition from the community (and one in support), the town’s Community Planning Department had earlier advised staff to approve the variance.
“This variance is anticipated to have minimal impact on the neighbourhood,” staff wrote. “Mamquam Elementary School is located 240 metres south of the subject property and on the other side of Highway 99. The Marijuana Dispensary is located in the north-eastern portion of the subject parcel, which is furthest from the school.”
Mayor Patricia Heintzman spoke in favour of approving variance for the dispensary, as did councillor Susan Chapelle.
The vote ultimately passed, unanimously, but staff noted that the approval is strictly for the land use of the business.
“It is not legal to sell marijuana from a storefront location anywhere in Canada,” staff wrote. “This Development Variance Permit deals strictly with land use business location concerns. Should a Business Licence be issued for a Marijuana Dispensary at this location, the business licence does not make legal any business operations that are contrary to municipal, provincial, or federal laws and bylaws.”
Grass Roots now has two years from the issuance of this license variance to complete the business licensing process or the variance permit will lapse.