Where do Surrey mayoral candidates stand when it comes to cannabis stores in the city?

A delivery vehicle for a Vancouver-based cannabis chain drives through West Newton on 80 Avenue in May of 2022. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

When the civic election rolls around on Oct. 15, it will be just shy of four years since the federal government legalized cannabis – two days shy, to be exact.

And Surrey still doesn’t have any cannabis stores.

But people can cross 120 Street (Scott Road) into Delta to visit a dispensary, drive to White Rock or the Semiahmoo First Nation or have your order delivered to your home in Surrey.

Now, one Surrey mayoral candidate says she will “end the ban” on cannabis stores in the city if she’s elected on Oct. 15.

“The current ban is based on outdated evidence,” Jinny Sims, Surrey Forward mayoral candidate, said in a release Aug. 16. “It was assumed that prohibited sales would reduce use, protect our youth and ensure community safety. None of that has occurred.”

Sims said there are “three reasons” to allow cannabis sales in Surrey: to curtail the impact of gangs and illegal sellers of cannabis; to ensure the safe supply of cannabis products in Surrey; and to stop dealers from moving recreational cannabis users on to more dangerous drugs.

“Safe supply makes a world of difference, but we also need to ensure that our children are not subject to dealers lacing cannabis with more dangerous drugs. This is only done to progress consumers from a legal product to those that are illegal and more profitable for gangs.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Doug McCallum said, “First of all, there is no ban.”

McCallum, who is once again running for mayor under the Safe Surrey Coalition banner, said when his slate was elected they “approved putting two into Surrey and since that time, we are looking at one location.”

He added the city is looking at two locations and are “very, very close to going into a rezoning and having that up and operating in months.”

But four years ago, when campaigning in the 2018 election, McCallum told the Now-Leader he is against cannabis stores and product operations in Surrey “until we get crime under control.”

Asked if crime is under control now in 2022, he said, “I think it’s certainly better.”

“The crime rates that just recently came out are a little better, but there’s parts of the crime that aren’t good. That’s the gang activity,” he said. “We feel, at least, comfortable that we could put two stores in. We’re not going to put in a huge number of stores like some cities are.”

However, he said there hasn’t been a “cry out there at all to have these stores.”

“It never comes up in our community. I haven’t heard anything about cannabis in our community at all and I’m out in the community all the time.”

McCallum said that “pausing a bit” has been the right approach.

“Let’s put it this way, we’re taking a measured approach to the stores,” McCallum said. “If it does affect the crime rate or the community in some way, then we won’t continue.”

Coun. Brenda Locke agrees on the “measured” approach. But Locke, who is running for mayor with the Surrey Connect slate, said residents “definitely” want to see cannabis stores in the city.

“It is a controlled substance, so I think you have to do it in a way that is measured and controlled.”

But Gordie Hogg, running for mayor with Surrey First, said he doesn’t think a “measured approach is of much value and people will just go to other municipalities.”

“Surrey is the second-largest city, and soon to be the largest city in B.C., should have an economy that allows businesses to function in that economy and ensure that there is a safe supply of cannabis, just as the evolution happened with alcohol many years ago.”

Hogg, who was a Liberal MP for South Surrey-White Rock during legalization, said Surrey is “clearly late to the game.”

I know that Delta and Langley and White Rock all have burgeoned and, perhaps, partially at the expense of Surrey because they’re unable to participate,” he said.

“Surrey, to that degree, was left out of the economy and the supply system.”

Meantime, Amrit Birring, who is running for mayor under a slate called People’s Council Surrey, emailed the Now-Leader saying, “We will let you know once we take a position on this.”

And independent candidate Kuldip Pelia said in an emailed statement to the Now-Leader that he will weigh the pros and cons before taking a stance.

“I will also consult with doctors,” he said. “If I decide to allow it I will make sure that patients get doctor’s prescription, and will depute Surrey Police officers to randomly check storekeepers to insure (sic) that they sell only pure products.”

Mayoral candidate Sukh Dhaliwal, with United Surrey did not return requests for comment.

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