A more than 3,000-word staff report presented to Sooke council has done little to clear the smoke surrounding the fate of the three retail cannabis operations in Sooke.
The report said that applications for all three have been received by the provincial Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) but said nothing about when those applications will be processed.
Prior to the issuance of any licences the local municipality has the responsibility to decide if they want to make a recommendation on an application, according to rules set out by the province. Should they choose not to make a recommendation, their silence is taken as a rejection and the applicants will not be issued a cannabis retail license.
But a local government cannot, it seems, just make (or not make) a recommendation in the absence of input from residents.
Provincial guidelines stipulate that public input is required and can be an be expressed through written comments, a public hearing, a referendum or another “method the local government considers appropriate.”
“The final point leaves some uncertainty over what form of engagement satisfies the provincial requirement, and when it can take place,” the report stated.
Another aspect of the staff report that left some councillors scratching their heads was the revelation that “the business licence inspector has requested that the LCRB conduct their ‘fit and proper’ assessment prior to the District of Sooke making comments or approving the licence. Once the ‘fit and proper’ assessments are complete, the LCRB will be checking back with the district.”
There was no clarification on what a fit and proper assessment entails. Nor is there any timeline attached to that assessment.
Coun. Brenda Parkinson said she is frustrated by what she read in the report.
“The (provincial) government hasn’t put everything in place that we need and I think they need to finalize what they’re doing,” she said.
Parkinson added that she’s been told that some cannabis retailers in Victoria were told to close down until their licences were approved or face the possibility of being denied a license by virtue of their having stayed open.
“Meanwhile, the retailers in Sooke are telling us that the government has told them they could keep operating,” said Parkinson.
“It’s like no one knows what’s going on.”
After a lengthy discussion at council, it was decided to receive the report as information and to direct staff to begin the public engagement process to receive input for policy and bylaw review in relation to cannabis for recreational purposes.
Meanwhile, the Sooke retail outlets continue to operate.