A Vernon pot shop owner describes the current situation for the stores in the city as “a mess.”
Russ Stevenson of Herb’s Healing Centre in the Alpine Centre says he will be closing his store Oct. 16th and laying off a half dozen staff.
He says he and other stores are looking into legal action against the City of Vernon over their inability to remain open once legalization takes effect Oct. 17th.
Stevenson says the city charged them $6,100 for a temporary use permit that they said would allow them to stay open, with a business license and rezoning.
“None of that has been done, and none of it will protect us. Definitely going to be suing the city. I think all clubs (stores) are going to be suing the city at this point, and it looks like it’s going to be a few million dollars,” he tells Beach Radio News.
Stevenson says he will be suing the city for 2 million dollars, saying that’s the investment he’s made.
“Basically at this point, they (City) will not support me. We have to have a letter of support to apply for the provincial licensing. We don’t have to have that letter before we apply. We can go ahead and apply, but before we can actually get it, we have to get the letter from the City that says they approve our building, where we are, and all that stuff.”
Stevenson says stores don’t want to take the financial risk of seeking provincial licensing, which he says includes a non-refundable $9,000 application fee.
“It’s nothing to do with we don’t want to apply. We don’t want to throw away another $10,000. No matter what, there’s no licenses coming until next year, so we have to shut down on the 16th, and we will not be opening again until at least January or February, if not April or May.”
He says under the current rules, his store could make $365 on it’s very best day which doesn’t cover 6 employees.
Stevenson says his clients are “freaking out” about the pending closure, with 80 percent of their business in edibles.
“They’re (province) trying to force everyone back to smokeable. Well, we won this in the Supreme Court for the medical people, and they’ve taken this all away away again, so the court cases are just going to go nuts. We’re going to throw millions of dollars at lawyers and courts.”
But in the meantime, Stevenson predicts some medical cannabis users will be lost to cancer and other ailments.
The City of Vernon’s Communications Officer Nick Nilsen provided the following statement when asked about the city’s policy.
“The province set the rules for the sale of recreational cannabis sales in BC, and they will be the only official supplier of cannabis to retailers. In order to purchase from the provincial government you require a license. The provincial government will not approve license applications unless they have the support of the municipality in which the retailer will operate. Vernon is currently updating the Land Use Bylaw to permit recreational cannabis sales in zones C3-12, RTC and CD1 and CD5 zones. When the Land Use Bylaw has been updated to allow cannabis sales as a permitted use, the City will begin accepting business applications. If the retailer meets the requirements, the letter of support will be issued.
Currently, recreational cannabis sales are not a permitted use and we have therefore been issuing temporary use permits. Other communities simply forced retailers to close down, so we feel Vernon’s approach has been very supportive of retailers. The TUP process will continue; however, based on provincial regulations, retailers will not be able to purchase cannabis product legally after Oct 17 and before the province issues licenses. So far they have issued one license in the entire province.
It is important to bear in mind that the province set the regulations for retail cannabis in the spring, so Vernon and other communities are moving as quickly as possible to adjust to the new regulations. As we shift from 100+ years of cannabis prohibition to the new model it will take time to develop new processes. The City is working hard to meet the needs of recreational cannabis retailers and customers,” stated Nilsen.