Surrey officials say the city has received nine applications for cannabis retail licences, but none will be considered.
“All have been told that the City of Surrey is not accepting any applications,” said Jas Rehal, the City of Surrey’s Director of Public Safety Operations.
“The bylaw prohibiting cannabis retail and production in Surrey has not changed and remains in effect,” Rehal added, referring to policies established under the the reign of past civic governments.
Currently, Surrey does not permit dispensaries. City bylaws did not permit them prior to the national legalization of recreational pot on Oct. 17, 2018, and the rules have not been changed since to allow for them.
Two cannabis stores in Vancouver were the first to legally open their doors in that city last weekend after receiving the necessary approvals from both provincial and civic government. City Cannabis Co. and Evergreen Cannabis Society opened on Jan. 4 and 5, respectively.
But so far, the door is not being opened for would-be cannabis retailers in Surrey.
Along the campaign trail this fall, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum adamantly opposed allowing pot shops to set up in the city.
Ahead of his election on Oct. 20, McCallum said he is against cannabis stores and production operations in Surrey “until we get crime under control.”
McCallum also said he fully expects all applications to follow the new “public engagement processes” that will be developed via a Mayor’s Standing Committee.
“My biggest concern is that (legalization) puts another layer of uncertainty on our city when our residents already feel unsafe,” he said at the time. “I don’t think we should be discussing potential benefits until the risks are known. This should not be about money.”
Prior to McCallum replacing former mayor Linda Hepner on Oct. 20, 2018, then-public safety director Terry Waterhouse (who is now leading the city’s transition to a municipal force) said “a big question mark” would be the direction of Surrey’s incoming mayor and council.
And, Waterhouse said the city was “still working through the framework at various steps, and that still required more information and input from the province in terms of knowing what the retail aspect will look like.”
Cities don’t yet know what per cent of revenues they would see from cannabis taxation.
During last September’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler, a resolution was passed that asked for 40 per cent of the initial $125 million in revenue to be shared with municipalities for the first two years after legalization. Anything in excess of that would be shared 50-50.
The money would be distributed on a per capita basis, with all communities getting at least $10,000. But no details regarding pot revenue-sharing have been publicly release since that time.
B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch says it has received 18 paid applications for cannabis retail licenses in the Surrey/Fraser Valley area. Of those, 11 have been referred to local governments of Indigenous nations for approval, and zero have received approval.
Meantime, 102 paid cannabis retail applications have been submitted for the Greater Vancouver/Sunshine Coast area. Of those, three licenses have been issued thus far.
Another three licenses have been issued in the “Interior and the North” area of B.C.
In total, six retail licenses have been issued in B.C. as of Jan. 4.