Plans for a pot shop in the Brentwood Bay Village neighbourhood of Central Saanich received a lifeline as councillors meeting as the committee of the whole deferred a decision.
Staff had recommended rejecting the proposed pot shop in the 7700-block of West Saanich Road, but a majority of councillors instead decided to hold off on making a decision until the provincial government has completed its assessment of the application, a process that may take some time.
Coun. Niall Paltiel voted against the deferral with Mayor Ryan Windsor and Coun. Zeb King absent.
Paltiel said staff and police had given him enough information to reject the proposed store.
“Due to concerns identified by Central Saanich Police Service, staff are recommending the proposal be denied,” said Andrea Pickard, a planner in the report.
The report does not reveal the department’s concerns. But municipal guidelines require applicants to submit what the report calls a police information check, “which would include a review of criminal records or other police records, for the business owner, manager, or full-time employees who would be working at the establishment.”
Central Saanich received the application from Ben Hinton, a Vancouver Island cannabis activist and entrepreneur. Police had arrested Hinton before releasing him without charge in April 2016 after raiding the Campbell River branch of Trees Dispensary, an Island-wide chain of dispensaries currently suspended from operations.
A letter to councillors, presumably from Hinton himself, describes Hinton as a “vocal advocate of access to cannabis across central Vancouver lsland for a number of years,” who has “lobbied many of the local governments including Nanaimo and North Cowichan to create regulations for retail sales in order to provide safe access to cannabis.”
According to the letter, Hinton has been involved in the cannabis industry for about a decade, having acquired his licence to possess dried cannabis through the Federal Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations in 2014 and most recently worked as the mid-lsland district manager for Trees - lsland Grown.
The letter does not mention Hinton’s contact with law enforcement officials.
But if council has an obligation to follow the recommendation of police, it is also legitimate for councillors to wait until the provincial government has offered its assessment before issuing a temporary use permit for the proposed business, said Paltiel. He added that he is not against the industry per se, pointing to his support for Central Saanich’s first cannabis retail store, approved in May in the 6700-block of Veyaness Road in Keating. Staff are currently preparing another application for the Brentwood Bay Village.