Notes from Monday’s Regular Council meeting, March 25. Elected officials present: Mayor Maja Tait, and Councillors Jeff Bateman, Al Beddows, Ebony Logins, Megan McMath,
Brenda Parkinson, Tony St-Pierre
On Monday March 25, 2019, Council revisited the zoning bylaw that had an unanticipated fourth cannabis retail outlet added to the count a few weeks ago. Prior to that, Council had approved and capped the number of cannabis outlets to three, using the formerly approved medical marijuana shops as the guiding principle. The newcomer to the count is a longstanding business owner currently operating the Stickleback Restaurant / West Coast Adventure College.
Following a delegation at the last Council meeting, this fourth possible outlet was added. To include this option, Council needed to rescind second reading, modify it, and then pass a modified second reading. Before it can pass third reading (when it is finalized), a public hearing will be scheduled.
A member of the public spoke out strongly opposed to rescinding and modifying the motion to add a fourth shop. She noted that the cannabis outlets cannot give out medical advice at all, this was one of the restrictions. She said the idea of being a medical go-to is out of scope for their industry, adding that once the property is zoned, it doesn’t matter who runs it. The speaker works in the industry, and she said they are already providing education to their consumers; the newcomer wasn’t adding anything new at all. Lastly, she asked if it was appropriate that an institute educate youth on cannabis usage.
Mayor Maja Tait noted that once approved, the stores can only sell products that are federally approved, which ultimately means that should all four be licensed, they will all essentially be carrying the same product. Sooke has for a long time maintained a moratorium of three stores, capping the number with municipal legislation. With what seemed to be a sudden change in perspective, the mayor opted to allow the market to dictate the number of retail outlets.
Counc. Beddows noted he had missed the previous meeting, but he felt that this was a sudden deviation away from their seemingly solidified earlier stance. He noted that Council previous had a great long discussion about the number of outlets and it was soundly and unanimously decided to cap the number to three.
“It does strike me as a little bit odd,” he said, puzzling his puzzler.
Counc. McMath said she has changed her perception on it, and her new stance is that Council shouldn’t support one business over another. Her current thought is that perhaps there shouldn’t be a limit at all. Oddly though, seemingly countering her stance, she voted against rescinding of the original motion to add the fourth shop.
Counc. Logins didn’t quite agree, saying that they weren’t limiting the number of businesses but the number of zones. Counc. Logins said she agrees with the member of the public who spoke earlier that the medical advantage shouldn’t be a consideration (at the delegation, the fourth potential cannabis outlet owner pitched education as a unique selling proposition). Counc. Logins indicated that she only supported it last time to get to second reading, but that she cannot support the application as it stands. She voted in opposition to the motion, consistent with her stance.
Counc. St-Pierre said he understood Beddows surprise, as he too was surprised at the time. Then, it made sense. The location was geographically far enough removed that they are looking at slightly different markets. He did acknowledge, though, that the three existing shops would be impacted. He supported the modification
Counc. Beddows said he gets McMath’s “let the market decide,” but countered that it was up to Council to determine the impact on the citizens. He doesn’t see why the fourth applicant needed a cannabis store to carry on with their college. It was a slippery slope, he warned. What’s stopping cannabis store number five and number six from springing up? The public is looking to Council to set limitations, Beddows argued, adding that this quick flip is alarming. That said, Beddows voted in support of the modification, stating that he would be interested in hearing from the public on this matter.
Counc. Bateman said perhaps Beddows should review the video tape.
Here’s how they voted:
- Rescind and modify: Counc. St-Pierre moved the motion, seconded by Counc. Bateman. Mayor Maja Tait and Councillors Jeff Bateman, Al Beddows, and Tony St-Pierre supported the motion; opposed were Councillors Ebony Logins and Megan McMath. The motion carried.
- Approve the modified motion: Counc. St-Pierre moved the modified second reading, seconded by Counc. Beddows. Mayor Maja Tait, and Councillors Jeff Bateman, Al Beddows, Megan McMath, and Tony St-Pierre supported the motion; opposed was Counc. Ebony Logins.
A public hearing will probably be held on April 8, and the public will have an opportunity to express their approval for one, two, three or all shops, as well as their input on the zoning amendment in general.
Note that you can also provide input to the public hearing by email. Contact information for all elected officials is available online.
Also discussed at the March 25 Regular Council meeting
- Sooke elected officials consider declaring a climate emergency
- Public input will influence the number of pot shops in Sooke April 8
- Council contributes $7,700 more to community causes
- Tim Hortons at Evergreen Mall: still a tentative prospect
- Sooke Council accepts consideration of another cannabis outlet in Sooke
- Sooke gets ready to zone cannabis retail stores
- Regulations ready B.C. for cannabis legalization