Cannabis store application gets council’s blessing

From left, Mikel Abbot, Alfred Schaefer and Peter Greene at the opening of their first Rural Leaft cannabis shop in Smithers in October, 2019. (File photo)

The District of Houston council has approved of an application from a Smithers company to open a cannabis retail store in the Houston Mall.

Rural Leaf Ltd., which has the one outlet in Smithers, submitted its application with accompanying documentation to the District last month.

While the provincial Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch oversees licensing and operations of non-medical cannabis retail outlets, local governments must approve of an application.

The branch has been conducting its own assessment of the application.

The approval by council was unanimous with mayor Shane Brienen and councillors Lisa Makuk, Tom Euverman, Troy Reitsma and Tim Anderson being in attendance at the Aug. 19 regular council meeting.

As part of council’s consideration of the application, it invited public comments resulting in six written responses being submitted to the District and considered at the meeting.

Three of the responses were in favour of the application and three opposed. Names of those who provided responses were blacked out.

One of the opposition responses focussed on the proposed mall location for the outlet, indicating “it certainly does not need to be in a high traffic area like the mall.”

“There must be other property, ‘off the beaten path’, that would be more than adequate for a product that most people have no interest in,” the person wrote.

A second opposition submission stated a cannabis outlet would only enable cannabis users. “People should try buying groceries for their kids so they don’t have to rely on the system to feed them,” the person wrote.

The third opposition submission was from someone who says they see the effects of drugs almost daily.

“I do believe that cannabis is a gateway drug that leads to heavier drugs down the road and we, as a community, should not be contributing to its use,” the writer stated.

One writer in support of the application didn’t see any drawbacks to a cannabis store while another writer said locating the store in the mall would be no different than the liquor store now there. And, the person added, there would be a few more jobs as a result.

A third writer in support of the application said cannabis is a herbal medicine which can help health issues if used properly.

“It’s time for this tiny town to put on its big boy pants and get with the program. It is 2020 … not 1950,” that person wrote.

“Please start making much-needed changes to this town before it becomes a true ghost town,” the writer concluded.

Alfred Schaefer from Rural Leaf thanked the District, saying council members did their due diligence.

“There was a lengthy discussion with a number of research papers being cited as to the benefits of having a legal cannabis store in your town and I applaud them for taking a facts based approach to their decision making,” he said.

Schaefer said the outlet will help revitalize the mall by increasing foot traffic.

Renovations of the outlet location will begin shortly, he added, with a goal of opening by Oct. 17, the second anniversary of the legalization of cannabis in Canada.