Kamloops set to approve first of B.C.’s private legal pot shops

Chris Lyth is days away from launching his dream business.

Lyth is one of two private retail cannabis applicants going before Kamloops city council on Tuesday. If his store licence is approved, he and his wife plan to run a family “mom and pop” marijuana shop, selling flowers, oils and seeds.

“It’s a great opportunity that doesn’t come along too often in a generation. So for us to be a part of this historic time is very exciting,” he told Global News.

“We’re not trying to be the big fancy store,” Lyth said. “We’re trying to create a comfortable environment where people can come in and feel welcome.”

Lyth would renovate the existing commercial building at 399 Tranquille Rd. in North Kamloops into “The Shore Cannabiz Shop.”

Another applicant is proposing to open a licensed retail cannabis store in a commercial unit at the Fortune Shopping Centre nearby.

Neither business was operating prior to marijuana legalization on Oct. 17 and a staff report recommends city council support both retail cannabis applications.

“We have gone down this path of the legal route because that’s just the way we are. We’d like to stick with the proper way to do things,” Lyth said.

The province is currently wading through 229 paid applications for cannabis retail store licences — and B.C.’s public safety minister and solicitor general expects government and private stores will be opening in the coming months.

“A number of communities, now that the local government elections are over, have indicated that they are moving on approval of cannabis stores, ” Mike Farnworth told Global News.

Kamloops was proactive in securing the province’s first government-run BC Cannabis Store, which has seen steady sales since opening on Oct. 17, and the city appears to be on track to welcome some of the first private legal weed stores in B.C.

The annual business licence fee for retail cannabis in Kamloops is $5,000 compared to $31,824 in Vancouver, where city council recently approved an increased rate of $33,097 per year for 2019. Kamloops says it will look at ways to potentially decrease the licence fee in the future.

“Per year, this has been set as a fee until the Province and Local Governments have had a chance to discuss the cost sharing of the Provincial tax collected,” city of Kamloops business licence inspector Dave Jones told Global News in an email.

“At that time the City of Kamloops will review the fee to determine if it can be reduced.”

Meantime, Lyth says he’s not fazed by an unlicensed marijuana dispensary operating across the street from his proposed legal bud business.

“You do it slow, you do it right.”

Some 300 plus supporters of Canadian Safe Cannabis Services have signed a petition against Lyth’s plans to set up shop legally, although a city report notes that the dispensary at 405 Tranquille Rd. “does not have a provincial licence or an active City of Kamloops Retail Cannabis Licence Application” and is non-compliant.

If Lyth’s and the other applicant’s plans to take the high road to retail cannabis are given the green light by council, it’ll be up to the province to finish its own checks before issuing the stores with interim licences.

“I’m honoured and humbled to represent all those cannabis pioneers of the past to bring it to this point where a private retailer can legally sell cannabis in the province of British Columbia,” Lyth said.

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