The arrival of retail cannabis in Tofino is beginning to shake out as the town’s municipal council continues to grind through its pot shop approval process.
Following a lengthy public engagement to get a feel for how residents want the recreational cannabis market to look like, council opened an intake window to collect applications from interested businesses. Applicants were asked to lay out how their business would engage with the community and what sort of social benefits they would bring to Tofino.
Four applications were received and that list was whittled down to two frontrunners during June 10’s regular council meeting where Daylight Cannabis Company and West Coast Cannabis Store were each rewarded for solid applications. Council directed their staff to advise the neighbours around each proposed businesses’ location that the district plans to approve a retail cannabis store nearby.
Daylight Cannabis Company plans to set up shop at 671 Industrial Way. The company’s application received accolades for its location away from local schools and parks as well as its stated promise that the business would provide up to nine units of staff housing.
Daylight also committed to covering the cost of two Tofino Volunteer Fire Department members’ on-call stipends on an ongoing basis and promised its staff would ask each customer at the point of sale to donate to a community fund to help local organizations.
West Coast Cannabis Store plans to operate at 1182 Pacific Rim Highway above Live to Surf in Tofino’s Outside Break complex. The company’s application stated it would set up an ‘Employee Housing Fund’ to subsidize the monthly rent for full and part-time employees and ensure no staff members pay more than $700 a month for a one-bedroom unit or $500 a month for shared accommodation. The company also committed to participate in Surfrider Pacific Rim’s Ocean Friendly Business Campaign, contribute annual Ecosystem Service Fees to support Tribal Parks and establish a bursary for local artists.
Both cannabis companies committed to paying their employees a living wage, identified at $20.11 an hour by the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust.
The last hurdle for Daylight Cannabis Company and West Coast Cannabis Store will be to officially receive a Temporary Use Permit from council and that decision is expected to be made in July. Those permits would last three years, after which each business will need to show how closely they adhered to the promises made in their applications before council decides whether to let them continue operating.
Under Tofino’s current retail cannabis policy, council had the option of approving up to three applications but chose to roll ahead with just two, rejecting applications from Tuff Leaf and Prairie Records. The rejection of Tuff Leaf occurred without discussion, but Prairie Records Chief Commercial Officer Adam Coates had presented a renewed pitch to council as a delegation earlier in the meeting that caused them to pause on rejecting the company.
Coates said that the company had renamed its proposed Tofino operation Pacific Records and planned to operate in Tofino’s downtown core at 150 Fourth Street.
“Part of the purpose of the Cannabis Act was to remove cannabis from the black market and take it out of the shadows,” he said. “Pushing cannabis stores into industrial or, kind of, hidden areas furthers the stigma associated with cannabis and really keeps it in the shadows as something that is a taboo or a not-good-for-you product.”
He added all employees would be paid, at minimum, the living wage set by the CBT and that the company would bake a surcharge into its pricing to ensure a portion of every dollar that came into the store would be donated back to the community, estimating the annual contribution to be around $25,000.
Coun. Britt Chalmers said Coates’ presentation had changed her opinion of the company’s application and asked if council could reconsider approving a third store.
“It explained a lot of things that I wasn’t happy with in the original proposal,” she said.
Tofino’s Manager of Corporate Services Elyse Goatcher-Bergmann cautioned council against considering new information that had not been presented during the application process.
“Now having received a delegation, yes, you have new information in front of you to help you make those decisions, but just keep in mind what’s been submitted has been reviewed by staff, what was talked about here today has not been reviewed by staff,” she said.
Coun. Duncan McMaster went to bat for the newly named Pacific Records, suggesting the company’s experience operating in other communities should be considered.
“We’ve deliberated, some would say procrastinated, over this cannabis retail business for a long time and to ignore the group that has the most experience in retail business, I think, is wrong,” he said.
With mayor Josie Osborne absent from the meeting and councillors Andrea McQuade and Al Anderson both recusing themselves due to conflicts of interest, the decision came down to councillors McMaster, Baert, Chalmers and acting mayor Tom Stere. McMaster was the only vote in opposition to council’s 3-1 decision to reject Prairie Records’ application.
After the meeting, Goatcher-Bergman explained that the district is no longer receiving cannabis retail applications and does not have another intake period scheduled to consider a potential third shop.