Ben Hinton, project manager for Trees Dispensary stores, arranges edible marijuana products in the company’s dispensary in Nanaimo. The business, which also has locations in Victoria and Oak Bay, is hoping to expand to the West Shore. (Chris Bush/Black Press)

Transforming the image of cannabis users

Dispensary eyes expansion to the West Shore

A local business is trying to transform the image of a stereotypical cannabis user.

Trees Dispensary, which has multiple locations on the Island including Oak Bay, Victoria, Nanaimo and Duncan, is looking to expand to the West Shore and bring a new face to those who use medicinal and recreational marijuana.

The business recently submitted a proposal to the City of Langford to open two storefront locations – one in the Millstream Village area and a second location bordered by Sooke Road and Page Avenue near the Happy Valley area that would be part of a mixed-use development in the future.

In addition to the storefront, the dispensary is proposing to expand its ancillary health and wellness services and are hoping to offer yoga, acupuncture, and art therapy to members, as well.

“We want to offer different sorts of services that would align our business model more towards people’s health and wellness, sort of change the image of cannabis users in the minds of people,” said Alex Robb, general manager of Trees, adding they’re currently looking at adding an adjacent yoga studio to their Yates Street location as well.

RELATED: B.C. marijuana dispensaries form independent group

“We’re looking at a new image and culture of cannabis use that is more in line with athleticism, art history, that kind of lifestyle than the Cheech and Chong idea that’s in a lot of people’s heads.”

In the past, the City of Langford has taken a strict approach when it comes to illegal dispensaries popping up through the municipality. However, with the impending legalization of recreational marijuana, council decided in April to allow up to five cannabis retailers to set up shop in the municipality through a temporary use permit.

But if businesses want to do so, they have to adhere to strict guidelines. Businesses cannot be located within 500 metres of any other store where the retail sale of cannabis for non-medicinal use has been authorized, cannot be within 300 metres of any school or group daycare, and within 50 metres of any land zoned R1 (one-family residential) or R2 (one- and two-family residential), except within the designated City Centre.

In addition, businesses cannot be located within 150 metres of Centennial, Veterans Memorial, or City Centre parks, as well as the Westhills YMCA, any regional or provincial park, or Langford, Glen or Florence lakes.

RELATED: Langford’s only pot shopt ordered to close permanently

Coun. Lillian Szpak said it’s a conservative approach that allows the City to control the number of dispensaries when legalization occurs.

“We’re looking for some sort of partnership from them in terms of what can they offer the City in compensation for what we consider to be the potential for increased RCMP costs, bylaws costs and so on,” she said. “We’re basically taking a positive, but conservative approach. One that has opportunity but one that is mindful of the concerns of the community and we’re taking responsibility through our policy.”

With a temporary use permit, if there are complaints from neighbours or the business is not compliant with regulations, the City has the ability to shut it down.

Robb is optimistic about the proposal Trees submitted to council.

“We thought Langford would be a great opportunity. A lot of our existing customers live in Langford and they travel to Victoria in order to buy their medicinal cannabis products,” he said. “This puts us closer to their homes … I’m quite optimistic. I’m really looking forward to hearing some feedback.”

The City will likely review the proposals in-camera, said Szpak, who estimates the first store could open within the next few months.

“We’re not talking about a year. We’re not in to slowing people down,” she said. “There’s a balance here – open for business and responsibility.”


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kendra.wong@goldstreamgazette.com

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