First legal cannabis shop in the Okanagan set to open 8 months after legalization

More than eight months after recreational cannabis became legal in Canada last fall, the Okanagan is getting its first licensed retailer.

SpiritLeaf on 53 Avenue in Vernon’s north end is the first Okanagan shop to receive its required provincial licence.

The business plans to open its doors during the first week of July.

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Owner Sarah Ballantyne said in an email to Global Okanagan that she is thrilled to be the first fully approved recreational cannabis store in the region.

“The provincial government is vetting all applicants thoroughly, which makes the process quite long,” Ballantyne wrote.

“We were confident in our application so we remained patient throughout the process.”

Part of the approval process was getting support from the municipality. Ballantyne’s shop, along with six others, received Vernon city council’s blessing in late March.

More stores have received Vernon city council’s approval since then.

During the civic process, the city received a 68-signature petition opposing the proposed location for SpiritLeaf. Critics were worried about parking and the store’s proximity to a daycare, and had concerns the shop would “attract a less than desirable clientele.”

However, city council gave its blessing to the location despite the criticism.

Watch: (Aired May 1) Big fines for West Kelowna illegal dispensary owners

During the civic approval process, Ballantyne defended the choice of location and pointed out there is already a liquor store, distillery and bars in the area.

The business also said its five parking spots would be well signed to prevent parking problems.

Asked what she would say to anyone with lingering concerns about the business’ opening, Ballantyne noted that “there is still a stigma surrounding cannabis” but said opening the store was the right decision for her and her partner.

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