Victoria looks at major drop to city cannabis retailers’ license fee

Lower business licensing fees for cannabis retailers will be considered by Victoria councillors on Jan. 13. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

The City of Victoria could soon see its regionally high business licensing fee for cannabis retailers come in line with liquor sellers.

The BC capital’s cannabis shops have been rolling out $5,000 to the city annually since legalization, but city staff are recommending that figure drop to $280, according to a report being presented at council’s Jan. 13 committee of the whole meeting.

The current $5,000 amount allows a bylaw officer to enforce the city’s licensing and operation regulations. In 2019, council directed staff to review the fee for cannabis retailers once the province could enforce its own licensing and operating regulations – which it now can, the report said.

The $280 amount would be the same as what liquor stores pay, but still higher than general retail shops ($100). The annual cost to operate a cannabis shop in Victoria is higher than neighbouring Saanich and Esquimalt, which both have fees of $2,000.

The city’s Storefront Cannabis Retailer Regulation Bylaw stipulates that shops must ensure visibility into and out from the stores. The condition requires windows to not be blocked by translucent or opaque material, artwork, posters, shelving, display cases or other elements on street-facing parts of the store.

Staff also recommend the Business Licence Bylaw be amended with a modified condition that would allow cannabis retail stores to implement some window art, as long as it doesn’t significantly block visibility.

The changes would support public safety, allow stores to beautify their windows like liquor and other retail stores do, and support place making objectives such as active land uses, the report states.

If those changes are approved, staff recommend that the Storefront Cannabis Retailer Regulation Bylaw be repealed. If the bylaw is repealed, issues associated with air filtration, staffing levels, hours of operation, and restricting product visibility and advertising to minors will still be covered by a mix of provincial and federal regulations, staff wrote.

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