Local medicinal dispensaries are awaiting licensing. (THE NEWS/files)

Local medicinal dispensaries are awaiting licensing. (THE NEWS/files)

Draft pot store policy favours government run

Maple Ridge council reviews Tuesday

Maple Ridge is looking at a process for approving pot stores, and it’s one that gives preference to government-run shops.

A draft policy that sketches out a plan for how the city will review and approve recreational pot outlets, says that preference will be given to government-run operations because of training, security, staffing and salary levels offered in such stores.

Council, at its Tuesday workshop, is to review the Cannabis Retail Processing and Evaluation policy.

Currently, the B.C. Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, is searching for two locations in Maple Ridge, one in the downtown and the other in west Maple Ridge.

Under zoning changes made in October, the city requires at least one kilometre of separation between pot stores in commercial zones. If a government store opens in the central part of town, it could preclude any other store opening in the area.

The draft policy also wants to put on hold any private applications for stores, until the locations of the government-run operations are known.

Other parts of the licencing proposed process include ensuring that a store meets the official community plan; letters must be sent to nearby property owners (within 200 metres); the application will be referred to the RCMP, followed by referral to a cannabis application review panel. A recommendation, either for or against, on each application will be sent to the Liquor Control Regulation Branch.

The policy also says that the city wants to ensure that each retail outlet is a good fit and will be a good community partner.

So far, the City of Maple Ridge has received three formal applications to open pot retail locations but there could be as many as 10.

Brett Steeves, who runs the Hammond Compassion Society in Hammond, says that it will take awhile for everything to clarify and doesn’t expect any new stores to open until the new year.

“Canadians have to realize that this is a government monopoly.” He hopes that the location of his store in Hammond will be far enough away from others that it meets the licensing requirements.

“We have a great deal of support in the community.”