The possible future location of Rural Leaf at 1126 Main Street in Smithers, last occupied by Rudolph’s Sausage. (Chris Gareau photo)

Town of Smithers supports pot shop

Council will recommend approval of licence for retail cannabis outlet to LCRB

Council has passed a recommendation to support a pot shop trying to open downtown.

At its May 28 meeting, council voted unanimously to recommend to the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) that Rural Leaf’s request to issue a non-medical cannabis retail store licence at 1126 Main Street be approved.

The recommendation was made subject to a number of conditions, such as following federal, provincial and municipal regulations surrounding the business, working with the Town and/or RCMP to resolve any concerns that arise and ensuring the storefront and building’s exterior comply with a number of regulations, both provincial and municipal, pertaining to the sale of the product.

One of the applicants and co-owners of the business, Alfred Schaefer, was present at the meeting, which began with a public hearing on the subject.

He said that, above all, he wanted people to know that the people behind Rural Leaf are from Smithers and have the well-being of the town as one of their foremost concerns.

“My business partners … and myself are all long-term residents of this community, we all own houses here, pay taxes here and are community-minded folks,” said Schaefer, himself a volunteer with Bulkley Valley Search and Rescue and a previous chair of the Bulkley Valley Backcountry Ski Society.

“We’re all people that love this community and are actively striving to make it a better place in our own small ways.”

The three residents who came out to speak to council were unanimous in their support of the proposed dispensary, noting the benefits of non-psychoactive components of the plant like cannabidiol (CBD), the benefits of supporting the legal market and that the business itself was local and not a larger company coming in from out of town.

“It’s nice that we have a group of young people that are from this town wanting to open up a facility and I know its not been easy and i know its not been cheap and they’ve jumped through all the hoops and i would hate to see it go to to a vancouver [operation] that really has nothing to do with our town,” said Smithers resident Debbie Courtliff during the discussion.

Before voting on the reccomendation council briefly rehashed some concerns that came up during the public hearing.

Referencing a letter in opposition to the proposed development which took issue with the proposed hours of 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Coun. Wray noted that these hours were consistent with that of places that sell alcohol downtown.

“When I saw the RCMP comments that that’s the same hours that are afforded to the Liquor Warehouse, for example, I can’t really have a problem with it.”

Wray further mused that longer hours might help with the stigma surrounding the product.

“Perhaps being open a little later when there’s not as many people around might be beneficial for some of the customers that are perhaps still a little reluctant to go into a retail store to purchase this product.”

Council also discussed reasoning behind a number of restrictions placed on the business by the town, such as not displays related to non-medical cannabis are not visible from the street and that no images of the product are displayed on the store’s exterior.

“Staff felt that the display of the actual product wasn’t appropriate as the first retail store in town and that’s why we put forward the reccomendation,” said director of development services Mark Allen.

As for Schaefer, he acknolwged that there would be some road bumps and said that, above all, his goal is to find common solutions.

“There will be hiccups, as with anything that’s brand new and we want to work with the community to address the concerns that are out there.”

Despite the town’s reccomendation, Rural Leaf must still obtain provincial approval from the LCRB for their non-medical cannabis retail license.

If approved by the province, the business must also apply to the town before getting the green light to open up shop.

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