The Cariboo Regional District is considering options for cannabis retail shops wanting to locate in the region.
The move comes after the Williams Lake First Nations urged the CRD in a letter Friday to reconsider its policies around cannabis retail shops, saying they are too “time-consuming and onerous.” The WLFN, which has a government-to-government agreement with the province to set up eight cannabis retail stores in B.C., is in discussions with Red Crow Cafe in Lac La Hache to lease part of its site at 4842 Hamilton Rd.
“It’s not a major centre but we thought there would be an opportunity there,” said Kirk Dressler, WLFN director of legal and corporate services and CEO of Unity Cannabis Ltd., adding they had been approached by the Red Crow Cafe for a potential lease. “The economics aren’t super robust but it is a possibility and could boost the economic opportunities in the Cariboo.”
Dressler said discussions with Red Crow Cafe have been paused because the regional district’s policies around cannabis require site-specific zoning, which could take up to 10 months to process. He urged the regional district to consider changing the zoning requirements to allow cannabis to be added to allowable uses in zones where there is already a liquor license.
CRD CAO John MacLean said during a board meeting Friday, May 7 that a staff report looking at ways to address the issue is expected to come to the board in late summer or early fall.
Al Richmond, CRD area director for Lac La Hache-108 Mile, suggested the WLFN and Red Crow could be offered a temporary use permit to move the project forward until the CRD comes up with a solution. He said the permit would allow the CRD to see how the community reacts to having the cannabis outlet in the neighbourhood. Temporary use permits are usually for three years and can be renewed.
“We are probably going to miss other opportunities for retail cannabis sales that are springing up all over,” Richmond said, “not to mention economic jobs.”
100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall said it’s important the CRD consult with local municipalities, especially those on the border of Lac La Hache. There are two retail shops in downtown 100 Mile House.
Area E Director Angie Delainey said she’s a supporter of cannabis production and “we need to make sure we do what we can to allow people to do business in our area. The stigma is going away. I would be in support of a temporary use permit to get businesses going,” she said.
However, CRD Chair Margo Wagner said she wasn’t sure a temporary-use permit would be feasible, noting it’s costly for businesses to invest and there’s no guarantee they could continue after the three years.
Both Rick Duncan, owner of Red Crow Cafe, and Dressler said it was unlikely they would go ahead on a temporary permit. Duncan said he offered the location to the WLFN because it’s right on the highway and fairly close to Williams Lake. He worries if they don’t move quickly, they will lose out to other jurisdictions.