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Bigger Pemberton Music Festival, cannabis dispensary on council's agenda

Council to explore community reaction to festival, but holds its own on marijuana storefront

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It might be easier for the Village of Pemberton (VOP) to accept 60,000 patrons for the next Pemberton Music Festival — than permitting a licensed medicinal cannabis storefront in the community.

One presentation to council at the regular Dec. 13 meeting featured an update from Huka Entertainment representative David Buttrey, who said there are no plans for a two-weekend festival, as some rumours have suggested. But he said the festival site and nearby camping sites could handle 20,000 more patrons. Buttrey said knowing the maximum capacity for the festival would allow Huka to design accordingly and base total numbers on square footage per person.

"We're not looking at increasing the square footage of the site," Buttrey told council. "We can sell more camping and more shuttle access without having to increase the footprint. We'll work with whatever is suggested by council."

Buttrey specifically addressed concerns about soil degradation and compaction in the fertile valley, but said an agrology study noted that there is no subsoil damage when the tonnage on farmland is less than 10 tonnes. Typically, the vehicles on farmland for the duration of the festival are between 1.5 and 2 tonnes, he said.

The Temporary Use Permit for the festival and affected farmland that has been used in the past is up for discussion in January, and VOP Mayor Mike Richman and council agreed that ongoing consultation is the best next step, including consulting on road closures, gauging reaction from area event organizers, such as wedding purveyors, and general feedback that would improve security, safety and overall operations of the festival.

The second presentation, from Adam Blender, director of operations for the medicinal cannabis SWED Society, was an effort to encourage the VOP to grant a licence to sell their product in the community.

"We adhere to a very strict set off guidelines," Blender told council. "We do not sell to anyone under the age of 18, and no one buys our product without valid medical documentation. And there is no consumption on or near the premises," he said.

Blender's presentation also included facts about medical cannabis dispensaries, noting that the median age of consumers is 37, and of the SWED stores currently operating in Vancouver — one downtown and another newly opened storefront on Robson Street — more than 50 per cent of the members are over the age of 60. SWED currently has storefronts in Vancouver, Victoria, Squamish, Penticton and one slated for opening in Nanaimo.

When SWED owner Joseph Le's application for a business zoning bylaw change came to council in October in order to allow for a medical dispensary, council voted to send Le a letter telling him that if he pursued a business licence through conventional channels, then attempted at a later date to open the dispensary, he would be asked to cease and desist.

While Blender eagerly asked at Tuesday's meeting at what stage the zoning amendment is at, council informed him it remains under review and won't come back to council until sometime in January.

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