Maple Ridge council’s committee meeting forwarded a proposal Tuesday to open a retail pot store in Valley Fair Mall.
Spiritleaf was one of only two private recreational pot store applications for Maple Ridge to be approved by the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch. Once provincial approval has been granted, the application is sent on to local councils for final acceptance, or rejection.
Spiritleaf is based in Calgary, but the private Maple Ridge store would be a local franchise operated by Jeff Sweetnam. He told council he’s lived his whole life in the Lower Mainland and is moving to Maple Ridge.
Maple Ridge changed its zoning bylaw last year to allow recreational pot stores in commercial areas, providing there’s at least a kilometre distance between each store.
Mayor Mike Morden was concerned about the timeline for approving and opening the proposed store and wondered if other applicants were being unfairly excluded, even though the current application looks fully compliant.
“I think there’s some sense that we need to be treating everybody on an equal basis, including this obviously great application, too,” Morden said.
Senior bylaw adviser Robin MacNair said that all applicants have been treated the same.
MacNair added that Spiritleaf received its approval from the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch on Dec. 24, after which it was sent to the city, while the next store application didn’t come until early April.
MacNair said of eight or nine private applications for retail licences in Maple Ridge, only two have been approved by province.
MacNair also said Hammond Compassion Society was one of the last stores to apply and is outside the one-kilometre distance Maple Ridge requires between each recreational marijuana store.
“So, I would see no issue with that store being able to go forward and be successful in their application,” MacNair said.
Coun. Gordy Robson was concerned about letting a franchise operation have priority over local operations, and that other stores are wondering why they haven’t been approved.
It could take another year for Victoria to approve the other applications, he added.
Planning director Christine Carter said council can review any retail pot store application and could adjust its rules to allow any store to open. Staff will also provide an update of the recreational pot store applications that have been made.
A later regular meeting of council will decide whether to pass a resolution supporting the store’s application. That then would be forwarded to the Liquour and Cannabis Regulation Branch for final approval.
The Liquor Distribution Branch wants to open a government-run store at Lougheed Highway and 207th Street.