During its Jan. 10 committee of the whole meeting, Qualicum Beach council discussed at length the previous council’s decision to lease the space for a cannabis shop in town as a pilot project. (Pixabay)

Councillor has concerns about Qualicum Beach pot shop decision

Debate over location, public consultation and timing continues, though commitment already made

Once the province gives the OK, Qualicum Beach will get a retail cannabis shop in its old fire hall building.

But one councillor has concerns.

The Town of Qualicum Beach announced on Aug. 22 it had leased a portion of the old fire hall building (124 Harlech Rd.) to QualiCanna Ltd., for the town’s first retail cannabis outlet.

Providing a “trial period” of 24 months authorized through a temporary use permit, the arrangement was described by CAO Daniel Sailland as a way for the town to have “greater oversight and control” of the operations of the cannabis shop by virtue of being the shop’s landlord. The town also plans not to allow for any other cannabis shops in town during that trial period.

Coun. Robert Filmer nonetheless brought up various concerns about the shop (which has yet to open, as QualiCanna Ltd. awaits provincial approval of its application) at a committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 10.

During the meeting, he explained he had requested the new council (the decisions on this having been made by the previous council) be allowed to discuss the issue before the town provided a temporary use permit.

“I do not want to reverse this process beacuse I do not want to put the town into a legal mess,” noted Filmer at the meeting.

However, he went on to say, “The advertising and the way it was put out to the public wasn’t done properly, in my view… So when this council came in, I did request not to reverse it, just let’s allow this council, before we issue the permit, to discuss it.”

Filmer noted opposition to the location of the cannabis shop by YouthLink, and the nearby library branch. He also voiced concern about the entrance to the shop being at the back of the building, saying that makes it harder to monitor who is using the shop and makes it easier for crime to occur.

The decision to have the entrance at the back was made by the town previously, said Coun. Teunis Westbroek. The town’s director of planning, Luke Sales, said the decision was made to allow users of the business some discretion. Video surveillance at all entrances and exits is also part of the town’s permit, noted Coun. Scott Harrison.

Both Sales and Sailland said that, had the town withheld a permit from QualiCanna, there could have been legal trouble.

The town, as a landlord, had signed a lease with QualiCanna giving the company permission to run a cannabis shop under certain conditions.

“We would be placing ourselves in an area of potential conflict if we were then to oppose the process (the temporary use permit) whereby they are actually going to now follow through on doing what we told them they could do in the space we are leasing to them,” said Sailland. “So it really does create a conflict.”

Filmer said he felt trapped by the previous council’s decision.

“I feel, when we came in and this was being done, we were put in a box with no way out. Council is the one that takes the flak from the community. I understand that. We signed up for that job, and I’m loving every bit of it so far,” he said.

After further discussion, Sales noted there are options available to the town to change its decision, but noted those options, like breaking the a lease contract, would be costly.

“The options are still available to council, but it’s not a clean slate,” he said.

Filmer and other councillors said they were not interested in reversing the process or breaking the contract.

After an opportunity for the public to comment (during which time two people came out strongly against the project, and a Coombs resident in support of it described his use of cannabis to deal with PTSD), Filmer added:“I’m not against marijuana.”

The discussion ended with a motion, passed unanimously, that “the committee of the whole recommends to council that staff be instructed to review our public smoking bylaws and fines associated with that.”

Sailland also noted this council will have a chance to reconsider this “pilot project” once the two-year temporary use permit is up.

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