The future of what would have been Pemberton's first recreational pot shop is up in the air after Village of Pemberton (VOP) council decided to defer making a decision on whether or not to support it.
Following the Nov. 27 council meeting, the project's proponents—Olga Prokobemko and De Em De—appeared confused by council's decision to delay.
"It's not clear for us why we are on hold," said Prokobemko. "We (were) lost in that discussion."
De wondered what was behind the delay: "Is it the issue with the documents—or the public?"
The decision came at the behest of VOP Councillor Ted Craddock, who voiced concern that the Village's new councillors—Ryan Zant, Amica Antonelli, and Leah Noble—were not fully up to speed on the Village's retail cannabis policy.
"I just want to make sure that the people making the decision feel that they have enough information," said Craddock. "These folks have sat here for two meetings; we sat for over a year making (the policy)."
During her presentation to council, senior VOP planner Lisa Pedrini said that staff is supportive of the proposal, which would see a weed shop go into the Pemberton Hotel.
While the licencing of cannabis shops is ultimately granted by the province's Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB), the application process gives municipalities the ability to turn down applications. (The LCRB is currently in the process of vetting the project proponents, and is seeking the Village's input on their application.)
Pedrini explained that staff supports the project for several reasons: the application is consistent with the Village's retail cannabis policy, the Pemberton Hotel has experience in selling alcohol (through the Prospect Pub), and the location "will provide customers with a convenient, licenced and store-front location in the Village's town centre."
During the meeting, council invited the public to give feedback.
Lori Patrick, a mother who lives in the Pemberton Fringe, was the only one who spoke. She expressed concern about the location, saying that it's too close to popular youth hangouts like the Community Barn.
"What I'd like to see is we minimize the exposure of legalized marijuana to the youth of our community," she said.
Patrick said she and others she has spoken to feel pot shops should be confined to the industrial park. "We've already got brew pubs in there," said Patrick. "It seems like it would be a realistic place for a facility like that to exist."
Antonelli expressed concern about the location as well, adding: "I think for a lot of people legal cannabis is a really upsetting notion, especially for people with young kids."
She said that it would be wise to wait before supporting a cannabis store in such a prominent location.
"I would like to see ... how legal cannabis is going to affect our community before it's sold in such a prominent location," said Antonelli.
For his part, VOP Mayor Mike Richman said he was in favour of the proposal, though he supported the idea of delaying the decision in the end.
Legalized cannabis is "the new reality" and if people want access," they can get it," he said.
"This application fits within the policy we put together. So at this point, personally, I'm willing to support the application."
During question period, Richman added that council would discuss the issue in a Committee of the Whole meeting as soon as possible.
Council received a total of six letters regarding the proposal—three in favour and three opposed.
Also at the Nov. 27 meeting, council supported a joint application—with the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) and Lil'wat Nation—for a Union of BC Municipalities grant to pay for an evacuation route plan for the Pemberton Valley.
The planning grant would be for up to $70,000; the goal of the plan would be to identify safe routes out of the valley.
It would include traffic modelling, mapping, and suggested amendments to relevant local government plans. In September 2018, staff from the SLRD, Lil'wat Nation and the VOP formed a working group to produce an "integrated flood response plan" for the Pemberton Valley.
"I think we need to all up our games when it comes to emergency planning," said Richman. "Understanding how we (can best) evacuate is really, really important."