(THE NEWS/files) Applications in process for recreational pot stores.

UPDATE: B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch applies to open two pot stores in Maple Ridge

City looks at tacking on $500 fee for pot store applications.

The B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch wants to open two new recreational marijuana stores in Maple Ridge.

The branch has applied to open one in Maple Ridge Square, across from city hall on Dewdney Trunk Road and 224th Street, and is awaiting city approval. It would still need to apply for a business licence.

A second LCB retail marijuana location is planned for west Maple Ridge, although that location hasn’t been confirmed, said Kate Bilney with the branch.

The Liquor Distribution Branch is the government retailer of pot and booze and has been discussing the locations with the City of Maple Ridge.

The branch doesn’t have to follow the application process required by private applicants, but does follow all local bylaws and requirements, Bilney said.

However, there’s no timeline yet on the applications and when stores will open.

“Once the application has been approved … we will start taking the necessary action to set up the store and get to work,” said Bilney.

Maple Ridge’s Cannabis Retail and Evaluation Criteria past last fall, gives preference to government-run outlets and requires the city to wait for three months, in case government-run stores want to open in Maple Ridge.

The city also changed its business licencing and regulation bylaw to allow retail pot stores within commercial zones, but requiring at least a kilometre distance between each store and a minimum distance of 200 metres from each school.

Maple Ridge realtor Adrian Keenan is getting lots of inquiries from people wanting to set up private shops.

“I get calls for cannabis shops at least two times a week,” he said Thursday.

Some retailers are even prepared to pay landlords in order to hold their retail space so they can file an application with the LCRB, while its possible that the branch may open two locations in Maple Ridge.

In order to start the application process, a physical location has to be under contract.

Keenan said he’s hearing from all types of possible retailers, from individuals to corporations, interested in setting up a pot shop.

“There’s everybody from multinational, sophisticated organizations, to two guys over the weekend that decide it’s a good idea to start a pot shop. Everybody thinks it’s the golden goose and I’m not convinced of it.”

But he said it’s time that stores got approved and opened so the market will settle out, he added.

The Cannabis Retail Processing and Evaluation Criteria policy came into effect Nov. 27 and favours government-run shops setting up within the city because of the government’s “strong track record handling a controlled substance.”

Maple Ridge cites the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch’s requirements for checking of ID that will help ensure pot doesn’t fall into the hands of minors and also its support for “stable, well-paying jobs in the community.”

For example, if a private store and a government store both want to locate within a one-kilometre area, the city will give preference to the government application, partly also because of the government’s ability to ignore local bylaws if required.

The policy also requires that Maple Ridge waits for three months after it’s received an application from the LCB, before it considers private applications.

Given the one-kilometre distance required between each store, Maple Ridge could probably accommodate four stores, he said.

The staff report also noted that the federal government is looking at legalization of other cannabis products after recreational marijuana became legal last October.

In addition to a $500 processing fee, pot stores also will pay a $5,000 annual business licence fee.

Maple Ridge has not yet approved a recreational pot store. Each application however must first go through a provincial process before being passed on to council, which has a veto on which stores ultimately get licences.

Council was to vote on the updates to its business bylaw on Tuesday.

A report to council on March 5 said the money will cover the staff costs of reviewing letters that are sent out to surrounding business for input, tabulating that input, and preparing a report about the application.

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