So, you want to open a cannabis store?

The process is time-consuming — and pricey

Private cannabis stores likely won’t open in Kamloops in time for legalization, which is set for Oct. 17.

“Bottom line is we’re going to hear a bunch of people whine and complain, but I can say, pretty definitely, that it probably has a lot to do with how many applications were put into the province,” City of Kamloops business-licence inspector Dave Jones said.

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The city is on the last leg of posting online guides for cannabis entrepreneurs and KTW dove into the process as legalization looms.

If you have a location identified and want to open a recreational cannabis store, Jones said, the first step is to notify the city.

Then, entrepreneurs must apply for non-medical cannabis retail licence through the province. There’s no cap on the number of licences that will be issued; however, a licensee can hold no more than eight cannabis retail store licences in B.C. The application costs $7,500.

The province then reviews the package to ensure it contains all the necessary elements before reaching out to the city. The city charges $1,600 on its end to consult via mail-out with neighbours within 100 metres of the proposed cannabis store, collect internal comments from the city’s bylaws, fire, building and business-licensing departments and draft a report with a recommendation to council.

Jones said the process is “very similar to a liquor-primary licence.”

From there, Kamloops city council either approves or rejects the application. With approval comes a $5,000 per year licence fee.

(It is important to note that even if a licence is approved at the local level, it could still be declined by the province, which simultaneously conducts a criminal record check.)

The city’s process is estimated to take about 60 days, Jones said, noting it will take even longer in other B.C. municipalities, such Kelowna.

“From day one, the whole idea was that the municipalities across British Columbia wanted some say in how many cannabis stores were going to be permitted and how many were not going to be permitted,” Jones said.

If the proposed property isn’t zoned for a retail cannabis store, a rezoning application could tack on an additional five months to the process. Jones said the city has yet to receive any referrals from the province and doesn’t know how many applications it has received so far for Kamloops.

The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch told KTW it has received 88 paid cannabis retail licence applications, with 14 from the Thompson-Okanagan region.

“The LCRB cannot disclose more precise information on applications as it could influence the market and inadvertently provide private business information,” senior government official Cassandra Togneri said in an email.

Jones noted there has been significant interest to open cannabis stores in Kamloops, but with legalization well inside the city’s 60-day time frame to approve applications, it is unlikely private stores will be approved in time for legalization.

Viviana Zanocco, the BC Liquor Distribution Branch’s manager of communications, said the government store still expects to open in Columbia Place Shopping Centre in Sahali on Oct. 17.

The cannabis outlet, to be opened in the former Your Dollar Store With More outlet next to Save-On-Foods, will be the first such operation in B.C.

The Oct. 20 civic election could also impact the number of council meetings available to move forward with cannabis store permits.

Asked what happens to those who purchase cannabis products from illegal dispensaries in Kamloops on Oct. 17, Jones stressed public education.

“Will the police force be out giving tickets on the first day? Probably not,” he said.

© 2018 Kamloops This Week

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