Vernon, the ‘Pot capital of BC’ greenlights two new stores downtown

A laissez-faire approach is being taken as the number of cannabis outlets continues to grow in Vernon.

Two more retail shops have been given the nod, just 240 metres from each other, on 30th Avenue in downtown. Vernon council agreed Monday, Jan. 25, to forward the applications to the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) for consideration.

Councillors were split on the decision, which must still get approval from the LCRB. So far, the branch has only turned down one of 21 applications from Vernon. There are 13 in operation around town, with the latest two capping the limit of six in the downtown area.

While he would normally be all for letting the businesses compete, Coun. Scott Anderson is not in favour of this many cannabis outlets in town.

“We’re already known as the pot capital of B.C. and that’s saying something,” Anderson said. “That is not a legacy that I want to leave behind me.

“This is not just another product, this is a controlled substance, like alcohol.”

READ MORE: Two cannabis shops vie for last downtown Vernon spots

Mayor Victor Cumming wonders how these businesses can even survive.

“The number of these establishments in our vicinity is very high. There’s the green mile (Westside Road), there’s another one by the airport on IR 6. I believe there will be a shakeout, I don’t think there’s the margins to allow that many,” Cumming said.

“I have been surprised by how little activity there is out in front of these businesses around the city. I don’t know how they’re making enough money.”

In the meantime, Cumming said a bylaw and RCMP reported from approximately one year ago said there have been no issues with any of the cannabis outlets. Each application submitted to the city includes a non-refundable $5,000 fee.

“This is the cost of doing business,” Anderson said.

But these specific applications drew a number of concerns, with six letters of opposition for one.

“Although competition is healthy, at this scale the viability of the existing retail outlets is already stretched,” Hive Cannabis owner Neil Rockerbie said in a letter to council. “Secondly, this retail outlet is located a stone’s throw of Hive Cannabis and I would question the need for another cannabis outlet in such close proximity.”

Hive is located within 50 metres of one of the proposals being forwarded.

“It’s becoming saturated in the downtown,” Coun. Dalvir Nahal said.

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