Municipal staff in Sidney are recommending councillors signal support for what would be that community’s first retail location for recreation cannabis with community input also favouring approval.
The staff recommendation appears in a report that also shows the large public interest in plans for the business. Council received 348 submissions (as of Thursday) prior to Monday’s special public participation opportunity.
Cindy Pendergast and Brad Styles plan to open a retail cannabis location in the 2400-block of Beacon Avenue. As was the case when council first heard the application almost exactly 11 months ago, submissions favour the proponent, with staff reporting 311 of the received responses “being generally in favour of the licence being issued” with 37 opposed. While just six out of those responses appear to come from within the 100-metre notification radius, they too favour the proposal with four submission supportive.
Looking at the geography of the responses, the report notes that 72 of the 311 responses in favour came from within Sidney, adding that place of residence for the majority of the favouring responses is unknown. Of the 37 responses opposing the application, 22 identified as residents of Sidney, with remaining opposing submissions coming from North Saanich (two), Central Saanich (one) or unknown (12).
If the general public generally favours the application without discounting the opposition, submissions from the business community unanimously favour the application, according to the report.
Of the 21 responses received from the business, all favoured the application, with 12 of the responses from supporting businesses within the notification radius of 100 metres. Two of the businesses occupy the same building as the applicant, the report adds. The Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce also submitted a letter supporting the application.
Sidney did not receive any responses from community organizations such as schools, daycares, or non-profit organizations.
Supporters in favour of the application note among other points that recreational cannabis now appears in the same legal category as alcohol, “stating that both should be treated similarly and permitted due to their legal status.”
Several responses also cited the “therapeutic and medical benefits” of cannabis use, as well as the economic benefits of a new business opening in the downtown.
Opponents, meanwhile, focused on the proposed location of the business. According to the report, 19 of the 37 opposed submissions either deemed Beacon Avenue unsuitable or expressed preference that it locate on side street in Sidney’s downtown.
According to the report, several submissions expressed “opposition to legal cannabis in general, citing social, health or other concerns with its use” while several opposed the use of ‘Buddha’ in the name of the proposed store.
Councillors, in other words, face a wide range of issues in deciding to forward the application to the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch with their blessing or opposition (including all of the gathered community feedback) with the LCRB making the final decision.
Monday’s vote certainly holds the promise of high drama as previous votes concerning the application have historically gone against the applicants by the narrowest of margins.
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