Squamish Discusses Offering Business Licences to Dispensaries

City Council in Squamish B.C. debated bringing in new regulations to license dispensaries at a committee of the whole meeting, yesterday.

Cannabis Growers of Canada executive director Ian Dawkins attended the meeting and said council have been reasonable in their approach to medical dispensaries so far, with hopes that they’ll come up with the solution for the town that makes sense.

“A lot of the questions the councillors were asking district staff were very obviously sympathetic to medicinal cannabis users,” Dawkins said. “What I heard from staff and council was them walking down a path that I would say CGC approves of — they’re talking about the need to regulate the space in spite of whatever the federal and legal situation is.”

Don Fauchon is a Squamish local and plans to open a new medical dispensary, Grass Roots Medicinal, within the next few weeks. Fauchon said it’s no surprise that city council is moving forward with the new regulations.

“Everybody’s in favour, this town has always been a cannabis driven town. City council is completely on board with the cannabis industry,” Fauchon said.

Fauchon said some of the town’s new buildings already have plans to be allowed to be used as grow-facilities once cannabis is legalized.

“The city’s very supportive, they know very well just how much money the cannabis industry puts through Squamish,” he said. “It would really hurt this community if we lose this at the grassroots level.”

Dawkins said, while yesterday’s meeting only allowed council to speak on the issue, he did talk with officials to lend his support, going forward.

“Obviously, they’re not subject matter experts, so we’ve offered to provide input and our expertise so that they’re making decisions that are based on best practices,” he said.

Council didn’t make a decision on the new bylaws yesterday, but have returned the matter to staff to investigate several points, including the exclusionary zone that limits where the businesses can operate.

“They’re still feeling out what are the best options and some of the conversations, for instance, were whether a 300 metre exclusion zone around schools were appropriate for the district or maybe something lower would be more appropriate with the geography there,” said Dawkins.

Fauchon said while it might be applied in Vancouver, it doesn’t make sense for Squamish to go forward with such a large exclusion zone.

“If they’re saying 300 metres from school, public places and parks, well Squamish is basically one big park,” he said. “If they do that in Squamish, nobody’s going to be able to open anywhere.”

There are currently two medical dispensaries open in the town, 99 North (which has been operated for about a year by former city councillor Bryan Raiser) and the new WeeMedical (which opened this past week).

Fauchon said, even with the new allowance for city business licences, he doesn’t expect there to be more than six dispensaries operating in the town.

“Maybe they’ll try and get a few in here, but the issue is rental properties,” he said “Most of the landlords who do have vacant properties are saying ‘no’ to a dispensary.

“So even if a lot of people did end up coming up and trying to open shops they would probably have to buy property because, right now, there’s nothing left to lease.”

Fauchon said he expected to see the issue back at city hall for discussion in April.