PoCo readies for cannabis retailers

The city of Port Coquitlam will look at new policies and policy amendments in the new year to accommodate cannabis shops.

The provincial government is scouting for locations in the Tri-Cities to set up a retail cannabis store, a Port Coquitlam city planner says.

And PoCo may be in the best position given it’s close to setting new policy to regulate public and private cannabis dispensaries.

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This week, the city’s committee-of-council considered a number of proposed rules that would change zoning, development procedures, fees and charges, business enforcement and other bylaws that, if approved by council, would allow for cannabis outlets in PoCo.

The move comes after the city called for feedback this fall and held an open house, where the majority of respondents said they liked the way the planned policies would roll out.

City staff are recommending cannabis sales outlets follow the liquor retail model — that is, with an approximate 1-km separation — and, given the consultation in September, a 250-metre gap from schools and playgrounds (they had previously suggested 200 m).

Also in response to public comment, city staff are recommending geographical and physical barriers, such as a river, highway or bridge, be part of determining where outlets can go.

In addition, cannabis retailers would be banned from using flashy or inappropriate signs on storefronts.

City council is expected to discuss the proposed regulations next month and, once adopted, cannabis retailers can submit their applications to the municipality within 30 days; bids will be reviewed on a first-come basis and assessed according to the criteria with location being the key factor, said PoCo planning manager Jennifer Little.

Each rezoning application will go through a public hearing and subsequently voted on by council, she said.

Little told the committee the Liquor Distribution Branch is looking for a site in the Tri-Cities; however, LDB communications manager Viviana Zanocco clarified with The Tri-City News today (Thursday) that all B.C. municipalities open to cannabis retail are on the agency’s radar.

Coun. Glenn Pollock said he attended the city’s open house and spoke with cannabis retailers from Vancouver Island and Prince George.

“I was hoping there would be a local flavour to this,” said Pollock, who moved the committee motion with Coun. Darrell Penner as seconder.

But Mayor Brad West said council can push for local retailers when reviewing applications.

Coun. Laura Dupont asked city staff to increase its campaign to educate residents about the city’s smoking bylaws (smoking and vaping of tobacco and cannabis products are prohibited in parks, playgrounds and trails, in public gathering spaces, at transit stops and close to civic facilities).

West said PoCo is breaking fresh ground with cannabis retail sales and he praised city staff for designing the guidelines.

He believes the 1-km distance limit is manageable. “I don’t want to see the community overrun with a number of cannabis outlets,” he said, adding, “I like where this [policy] is taking us.”


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