Sooke council has modified its position on how many cannabis outlets its willing to consider for the municipality.
Council previously took the position that only three cannabis retailers would be allowed in Sooke but following a presentation by Westcoast Adventure College at the March 11 council meeting, it agreed to take steps to raise that number to four.
The change of heart is in response to the unique approach to cannabis retailing proposed by the company where an educational component would exist at the foundation of the retail operation.
“Cannabis professionals have approached us to create an educational component of the retail environment where the health and safety of cannabis customers take the forefront,” said Scot Taylor, the owner of Westcoast Adventure College.
Mayor Maja Tait, who is supporting the move to increase the number of cannabis outlets in Sooke, said that the approach of the company was only a part of why she supported the request.
“I have had other cannabis retailers and those who want to become retailers calling me from all over, but they were largely from outside Sooke, and even outside the province. Westcoast Adventure College has operated in Sooke for a long time and is part of this community,” Tait said.
“They also have an existing location removed from the other (cannabis) retailers in town, so it’s a good fit.”
Part of the proposed educational component touted by the company will be aimed at high school students and will address the risks and benefits of cannabis use.
Another portion of the operation will focus on the use of cannabis as a method of addressing B.C.’s opioid crisis.
Jas Basi, the chief executive officer of GrowX Global, the company that will partner with Westcoast Adventure College in this new venture, spoke to council about the work his firm has been doing in Vancouver to promote social responsibility in cannabis use.
“We’ll be hiring an addictions counsellor to work with people to help them use cannabis to get off hard drugs. We’ll also be helping people with addictions to get to the right supports,” said Basi, whose 26-year career with the RCMP has given him a unique perspective on drug use, abuse, and trafficking.
“There’s a lack of training in many dispensaries. If someone comes in wanting to get off drugs or even stop taking Ritalin for ADHD, or if they have other medical or psychological concerns, the staff often can’t help them. That’s the point where it’s critical to get them to the right supports and not just sell the product.”
A final part of the proposal is an offer to engage in a profit-sharing arrangement with the municipality.
“This is not about the money we can make at the store, but the help that we can offer the community. We’ll be bringing in Kash Heed (another retired RCMP officer) and others to help train local people,” Basi said.
He anticipates the company could give back as much as $50,000 a year to the municipality to help support stakeholders who deal with cannabis education in the schools and elsewhere.
GrowX is exploring similar operations in both Duncan and Victoria.
Council passed a motion directing municipal staff to include a fourth location in an upcoming zoning bylaw to allow for the proposed new outlet.
The move requires the council to rescind the already passed second reading of a bylaw regarding cannabis retailers. They will then move to pass a new second reading of the amended bylaw.
The issue will ultimately be subject to a public hearing and a third reading of the bylaw.