Businesses deem legal pot’s cross-border effect minimal

SURREY – With cheaper fuel and goods already a draw for many to head south of the border, local business groups aren’t too concerned about recreational marijuana being added to that list.


Joining Colorado as the second state in the U.S. to do so, Washington State last week made the drug legal for recreational use after residents voted for it back in 2012.


When asked if the Surrey Board of Trade was concerned about the potential for businesses north of the border to further feel the squeeze from cross-border shoppers, CEO Anita Huberman said while legal pot would be a draw, they aren’t as worried about it as some of the bigger draws such as fuel and groceries.


"I think cross-border shopping will increase and a sidebar purchase will be marijuana," she said. "I think overnight trips might increase, but I think people crossing the border for that purpose also need to be aware that Canadian Border Services as well as the U.S. border, they’re very cognizant about people crossing the border for the sole purpose of people buying marijuana."


Last year the SBoT came out against the legalization of marijuana citing concerns that employee productivity could go down as a result.


"Our position remains as it is," said Huberman. "There’s no black and white solution, it is a grey area certainly but we are concerned about the workplace as the bottom line.


"We will be monitoring how Colorado and Washington State do very closely."


Across the border in Bellingham several legal marijuana stores have since opened ready to sell to anyone over 21 years old with valid ID.


One such store is 2020 Solutions just south of the border in Bellingham. According to Aaron Nelson, the store’s senior vice president of operations, around five per cent of the customers so far have been Canadian.


Asked how some Canadians might be enjoying the pot – since it can’t be consumed in public areas – Nelson said some people have been staying in cabins or camping.


"They are very excited and very supportive that we’re here for them," he said of his Canadian customers. "We’re in a very supportive neighbourhood as well, so locally people have also been very supportive of what we’re doing and many have already come in to purchase products."


On Friday, Nelson said they weren’t sure if their current stock would last the weekend, but that there was more on the way for the coming week.


Back in Canada, South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce executive director Cliff Annable said his organization did not have a position on the issue, but that they also weren’t concerned about the added draw down south.


"No, it’s not an issue or a concern to us. If they’re going to spend dollars on that (marijuana), they’re not going to be shopping for other stuff," he said.


Annable added that the issue was on the agenda for the chamber’s next meeting, at which point they would be discussing a possible position on the matter.


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