The lawyer representing a proposed cannabis store in Sidney says society “is well past trying to categorize retail cannabis stores as something evil” after the municipality reversed course about notifying schools, daycares and parents advisory councils.
“Anyone who continues to think of cannabis retail like that is really 15 to 20 years behind the times,” said John Alexander, who represents Happy Buddha Cannabis. The business plans to open what would be Sidney’s first retail cannabis location in the 2400-block of Beacon Avenue and faces a hearing.
Interested parties have until 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 18 to submit written comments to the Town of Sidney, which has scheduled a special public participation period for Monday, Sept. 28, during council’s regular meeting starting at 6 p.m.
Council earlier this month asked staff to schedule the event, but not before adding language that asked staff to notify “local schools, daycares and parent advisory groups in Sidney and North Saanich.”
That language initially divided council with a bare majority favouring it. Coun. Terri O’Keeffe proposed it, citing a letter from top public health doctors that calls on municipal governments to “[ensure] local retail sales of non-medical cannabis should be limited” to reduce the “unintended exposure by youth and harmful patterns of consumption” in the general population.
Coun. Peter Wainwright disagreed, saying the additional notification would not only be onerous on staff, but also send a questionable message.
“By expanding beyond what we have done for Gateway [and other controversial projects] in the past, it would appear we are sending a message that something really evil is being proposed,” said Wainwright.
Proponents of the additional notification, however, appeared to have suffered a setback with council’s decision to drop that language. Sidney’s chief administrative Randy Humble confirmed that a special in-camera meeting on Aug. 24 rescinded the notification language, but did not give additional details.
“Council will verbally rise and report on this matter at the [Sept. 14] council meeting,” he said. “Council can speak to it at that time.”
Alexander does not know the rationale behind Sidney’s decision. “I’m presuming that it was done, because it exceeded what the judge ordered them to do and because it exceeded their own policy on notifications for cannabis licences,” he said.
Alexander called Sidney’s decision “probably the correct thing to do” because the only relevant question is whether the location of the proposed store will affect nearby residents.
“The province has told all municipalities that ‘we don’t want to hear from you about the acceptability of selling cannabis’,” he said. “We don’t want to hear about the health effects of selling cannabis. We don’t want to hear from you about cannabis and children. We just want to hear from you what you think about this location.’”
Humble said the municipality has so far not received any comment from schools, daycares and parents advisory councils.
“No letters or notices were sent out prior to rescinding the portion of the resolution,” he said.
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