Port Moody cannabis applicants left hanging by council adjournment

Cannabis retailers hoping to open up shop in Port Moody will have to wait a little longer.

City council was considering zoning amendments that would allow four such shops — three on St. Johns Street and another in Suter Brook Village — when Tuesday’s council meeting was abruptly adjourned at midnight after two councillors, Meghan Lahti and Diana Dilworth, voted against extending the meeting after it had already been extended twice.

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Glen Weismiller, whose Stellava Ventures Inc. is aiming to open a Purpcity outlet at 2506 St. Johns St., said despite the delay, he remains “optimistic” that his company’s plan to work with other local businesses, as well as a pledge to give 4% of its profits to Share Family and Community Services “will prevail.” He said the extra time will provide a further opportunity for residents to drop by the location and learn more about the business and how it plans to operate safely, ensuring his product doesn’t get to minors.

Council started discussing the cannabis shop applications after a public hearing that lasted more than two hours. During the hearing, council heard several presentations in support of the various applications, including one resident who said he wants to know his kids can get cannabis from a place “that has rules” to ensure it’s safe.

Randy Webster, the president of the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce, spoke in favour of an application by burb to open a shop in Suter Brook Village. He said he was impressed by the “professional environment” during a visit to the company’s Port Coquitlam location.

“I think the stigma of who the clientele is is changing,” Webster said.

Others said they’d be thrilled to be able to walk to a local retailer rather than having to travel outside of Port Moody to buy their cannabis.

But others spoke in opposition, including several members of a church congregation, many of whom said they didn’t live in Port Moody but are concerned about the proximity of the shops to their church's Sunday school and kids' activities.

Mayor Rob Vagramov told The Tri-City News Wednesday their “organized effort” seemed hypocritical as many of those church members live in communities where cannabis shops already operate.

One woman, opposed to burb’s proposed shop at 101 Morrissey Rd., presented council a petition with 49 names of residents in Suter Brook who shared her sentiment.

Meanwhile, one applicant whose proposal wasn’t before council Tuesday said a rule change midway through the application process precluded local businesses from early consideration in the first wave of cannabis shops looking to set up in Port Moody.

Rylie Ableman, owner of the St. James's Well pub in NewPort Village, said he’d taken all the proper steps laid out for applicants in Port Moody’s corporate policy when he was informed by city staff that he also had to show he had passed a provincial “fit and proper” vetting into the backgrounds of his principals, as well as their banking information, a process that can take several months. He said the new requirement favoured corporate applicants who’d already obtained background clearances when they’d applied to open shops in other communities.

“I feel like we’re being shut out and not being given a fair chance,” Ableman said, adding he’s been paying the lease for a location at 2343 Clarke St. for three years in anticipation of opening a cannabis shop.

But Jess Daniels, Port Moody’s policy planner, said the province’s “fit and proper” requirement to obtain a licence was news to staff after it had composed the corporate policy, so the deadline for the city to receive all the assessments of applicants from the province was extended to Oct. 15 from its original Sept. 30 date. She said, so far, the city has only received assessments for the four applicants that were before council Tuesday, adding another seven are undergoing provincial review and, once their applications are complete, they’ll be brought to council sometime next year.

In total, Port Moody will allow up to five cannabis shops to open in the city initially.

The four applications still pending after the adjournment of Tuesday’s meeting will be put on the agenda for the next available meeting, which could happen as early as next Tuesday, Vagramov said.

 

11/28: corrected number of names on petition.

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