Tony Le, at Green Era Medicinal. (THE NEWS/files)

Tony Le, at Green Era Medicinal. (THE NEWS/files)

Retailers can now apply to open a pot store

But Maple Ridge council will have veto over any marijuana store opening

With federal legalization of recreational pot coming Oct. 17, businesses now can apply for a licence for a retail operation.

But any shop wanting to sell pot will have to get council approval first.

The province announced last week that the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch is now accepting applications for private, recreational marijuana licences.

That process requires a prospective pot purveyor to submit an application online, including a layout of the floor plan.

Then, in turn, the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch will notify the city involved to see what it thinks. If the local council doesn’t like the idea, and won’t support the proposal, the application dies right then.

If council supports an application, it has to consult the public, by either inviting written comments, holding a public hearing or a referendum and submitting those with its recommendation supporting the application.

Councils also can allow city staff to make the decision about whether to support an application and can ask that certain conditions be attached to a recreational marijuana retail licence.

The rules require a city to provide a positive recommendation for a pot shop before it’s considered by the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch. Anything less than that means the application is rejected.

Earlier this year, Maple Ridge passed a bylaw banning all recreational pot shops in the city as a housekeeping move to keep stores from opening up in anticipation of legalization.

Tony Le, with Green Era Medicinal, a downtown store that was raided in June by RCMP and bylaws, still intends on applying, even though he said the city is currently trying to shut him down with a court injunction.

Le said the store has been operating for more than two years in Maple Ridge, and has received multiple $200 fines for not having a business licence. Le said he is willing to get a business licence, but was told the city is waiting for direction from senior governments as legalization unfolds.

The Always Growing Green Society (TAGGS), on 224th Street, doesn’t intend on applying for a recreational licence, and will continue operating as a medicinal marijuana dispensary, a club manager said Monday.

Coun. Craig Speirs expects council will consider each application for a retail recreational marijuana store on a case-by-case basis, adding the city hasn’t taken a formal position on the issue.

He also expects council, generally, to support recreational marijuana stores. But he still wants to know what kind of cut the province will give cities from recreational marijuana taxes.

“We’re going to have to deal with it and we should be compensated for it. We should be making a fair amount of revenue from it,” said Speirs, who’s running for mayor in the Oct. 20 civic election.

He’ll consider every application as a clean slate, but said a new council could simply oppose all of them.

Ernie Daykin, also running for mayor, has concerns.

“If it’s up to each municipality to approve it or not, I think council has to look at each, on its merit, and then make a decision from there. But I do have concerns.”

Michael Morden, who’s also running for mayor, said recreational marijuana needs to be treated the same as alcohol sales and wants to go through consultation to hear the public’s views.

“We need to ensure that distribution of marijuana is done through a properly regulated system, so that the public gets a safe product.”

Maple Ridge municipal staff are currently drafting policies for recreational pot shops in Maple Ridge. That will come before council this fall to coincide with the federal law.

Pitt Meadows currently opposes recreational marijuana stores until it knows what the share of cities will be.

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