City of Whitehorse to consider amending buffer zone for new cannabis store

·3 min read
Owners of Community Cannabis, a proposed pot shop, have leased the old Marble Slab building in downtown Whitehorse, but they're running into zoning problems.  (Julien Gignac/CBC  - image credit)
Owners of Community Cannabis, a proposed pot shop, have leased the old Marble Slab building in downtown Whitehorse, but they're running into zoning problems. (Julien Gignac/CBC - image credit)

Owners behind a proposed cannabis store in Whitehorse say they are losing thousands of dollars every month because of a territorial zoning law, and appealed to the city to grant them an exception.

"We're incurring about seven, eight, nine thousand dollars a month in some costs right now, with no ability to work towards opening our business," co-owner Jordan Stackhouse told Whitehorse city councillors Monday night. "We're just actively paying this money without any ability to open our business.

"We wanna go as soon as possible."

Stackhouse and his business partner, Daniel Schneider, recently leased the old Marble Slab storefront, located on Second Avenue. According to territorial legislation, stores that sell cannabis need to be at least 150 metres away from schools. Community Cannabis, which Stackhouse said is the second locally-owned pot shop in Whitehorse, is almost exactly 100 metres away from the Individual Learning Centre, which the Cannabis Licensing Board considers a school.

City of Whitehorse
City of Whitehorse

Yukon's Cannabis Control and Regulation Act states as one of its main purposes to "protect young persons and discourage their access to, and consumption of, cannabis."

Under the legislation is a provision that allows city bylaw to prevail over the territory. That's why Stackhouse and Schneider are appealing to the city for an exception.

"It's been difficult navigating all this and we're frankly exacerbated on this and at the end of our rope and we're just hoping we get a bit of help from the city," Stackhouse said.

'No strong objection'

In 2019, shortly after the federal government legalized cannabis, the Cannabis Licensing Board decided against two retail applications to sell pot in the city. Both proposed stores were deemed too close to the same learning centre that Community Cannabis is currently considered to be.

According to an administrative report conducted by city staff, the Yukon Liquor Corporation recently advised it has "no strong objection" to the proposed bylaw amendment.

"YLC could not find a rationale for the specific distance or evidence of greater harm occurring between 100 and 150 metres," the report states. "They advised the buffer is not a critical piece of youth protection in this instance as other requirements will remain (ID check, visual and noise screening, etc.)"

The Department of Education also told city staff it didn't have a strong objection, "but that any proposed change needs to be examined individually in how it may affect the local school community."

Amending bylaw could take until October

The city is to consider the proposed pot shop under its bylaw process. The earliest date at which the bylaw could be changed is Oct. 10. The process includes launching a public hearing and completing a committee report.

Several councillors stressed the urgency of setting up the business. That includes Ted Laking, who said the longer the owners wait, the higher the financial toll on them.

Laking floated the idea of holding a special council meeting to expedite the bylaw process.

"I would be in favour of addressing our schedule so that we don't leave a private business on the hook bleeding money," he said.

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