District council has cleared the way for four retail cannabis outlets in Sooke.
While council in the past gave tacit approval to the three existing pot shops in the community, an issue arose when a fourth applicant, Scot Taylor of Sooke’s Westcoast Adventure College and Stickleback Cafe, came forward in early March with a different approach to cannabis retailing
Taylor’s presentation emphasized an educational component to his proposed operation.
The bylaw amendment will allow for cannabis sales at four specific addresses, but those four outlets will still have to apply for licenses through the provincial liquor and cannabis regulation branch. That licensing will only be granted on the completion of a “fit and proper” assessment by the province to ensure all regulations are upheld.
And although council’s previous position that only three shops would be allowed in Sooke had been deemed by the courts to be beyond their authority, some members of the public and councillors continued to hark back to that position.
The objections to Taylor’s application included a concern that, as a gateway business to Sooke, the image of a cannabis shop in that location might send the wrong message about the community.
Others, including councillors Al Beddows and Jeff Bateman, echoed the concerns of some citizens who expressed apprehension about traffic at the site, should a cannabis store be put in place. They noted making a left turn into and out of the location would be hazardous.
Coun. Brenda Parkinson supported the fourth location, noting it wasn’t council’s job to either aid and abet businesses or to put up roadblocks to any new businesses wanting to establish in Sooke.
That position was largely reiterated by Beddows and Bateman, and echoed by Coun. Tony St. Pierre, who elicited some chuckles from the gallery when he made a tongue-in-cheek reference to the possibility of Sooke’s tourism being enhanced by the cannabis outlets.
“We can have bed, breakfast and bud locations,” he said.
Coun. Ebony Logins, who was supportive of the proposed new cannabis business at the March 11 meeting and changed her position at the subsequent March 25 meeting, said that the process of learning about the issue had been “a real rollercoaster.”
Logins said she discussed the application with Taylor and was inspired by his forward-thinking, but continued to have some concerns.
“I probably have too many thoughts (on the issue) and my thoughts are a bit more scattered than usual,” Logins said.
And while Mayor Maya Tait reiterated her support for the fourth application and the bylaw zoning amendment, fledgling Coun. Megan McMath remained silent on the issue.
A final resolution was reached when Parkinson moved the passing of the zoning amendment, seconded by Beddows.
The motion passed with only Logins voting in opposition.