A day short of two years after cannabis became legal in Canada, council gave their approval Monday to proposals for four retail stores in the city.
Those cannabis stores won’t be open right away, though. Three must still go through a vetting process by the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch. A government-run BC Cannabis Store approved for Highstreet shopping centre doesn’t need to jump through those hoops and could open soon, but it still needs a business licence and a building permit before it can open.
Building permits related to signs are among the quickest for the city to process, with the city’s website saying sign-related applications are currently reviewed within about a week of submission. But opening dates will also be subject to the operator’s timelines – BC Cannabis Stores approved last winter in Mission and Port Coquitlam have yet to open.
Last year, the city capped the number of initial stores at four and pre-zoned 10 sites for cannabis sales and set the guidelines for a competitive application process.
When the city finally started accepting applications this spring, eight proponents came forward. Seven made it to a public hearing stage, with one proposed for a site not zoned for cannabis sales. Council heard little opposition at the time, leaving staff to sift through the details of each proposal.
On Monday, staff recommended which four applicants should get to open. After evaluating the proposals, planners found few major faults with any of the applications.
Planner Ryan Beaudry told council Monday that all seven remaining applicants had a number of similarities and “all generally meet the policy, but meet it to different degrees.”
Significantly, the city’s policy sought out a geographic balance of stores. And with four proposals clustered in central Abbotsford and along South Fraser Way, that gave an edge to the three others sites spread around the rest of the city. All three of those were recommended by staff. Of those along the South Fraser Way corridor between Clearbrook Road and Ware Street, only one – Meta Cannabis Supply Co. – was allowed to proceed.
The four applicants recommended to proceed are:
- This is Cannabis at Abbotsford Village Shopping Centre on Sumas Way
- Muse Cannabis Store at Parallel Marketplace on North Parallel Road
- BC Cannabis Store (government-run) at Highstreet Shopping Centre
- Meta Cannabis Supply Co. at Clearbrook Town Square
Failing in their applications were Sweed Cannabis Store at Sevenoaks, A Little Bud at West Oaks Mall, and Honeycomb Cannabis at Meadow Fair Plaza.
Aside from a desire to avoid clustering, staff didn’t indicate what, particularly, tipped the scales in favour of Meta Cannabis in central Abbotsford. All four companies operate cannabis stores in other jurisdictions, although Meta Cannabis has the most outlets, with 35 licensed operations across Canada under several names.
Beaudry did tell council that both Sweed and A Little Bud had previously operated unlicensed stores, although both have since closed those outlets.
Regarding feedback from the public, the report says, “Most of the comments were supportive and there were few comments of non-support. Staff would therefore not suggest excluding any of the seven applications on the basis of public input.”
Council unanimously approved the recommended stores. They also alluded to a future increase of the number of stores in Abbotsford.
“This is a first phase,” Coun. Sandy Blue said. “We really want to take a look at what’s happening and will re-evaluate later.”
Mayor Henry Braun said the experience with the first four applicants will influence the city’s approach if and when it welcomes new proposals in the future.