Tofino could welcome its first pot shops this summer.
After a lengthy review process, Tofino’s municipal council is ready to lift its ban on cannabis sales and open a one-month window for interested applicants to make their best pitch for opening a cannabis business in town.
The district will accept applications from Feb. 25 to March 27 and a maximum of three Temporary Use Permits will be handed out. The permits will give each successful applicant three years to operate a cannabis retail store with the potential for a renewal depending on how those first three years go.
“Using a TUP process with respect to cannabis retails allows the district, the community, and cannabis retailers to ‘test drive’ this new use,” Tofino’s manager of community sustainability Aaron Rodgers told the Westerly News.
He added that he expects Tofino’s first wave of cannabis retailers will likely be in place by “late spring, early summer.”
In their application, each potential retailer must lay out the community health implications their operation could have as well as any potential social benefits their business would bring to town.
Following the March 27 application deadline, applications will be published for review by community members at www.tofino.ca/cannabis. Following the public review period, Tofino’s municipal council will evaluate each proposal.
A Feb. 15 media release from Tofino’s district office suggests council may consider whether the applicant plans to pay their employees a living wage or provide employee housing when deciding who to issue a permit to.
Rodgers said Tofino has put no official restrictions around the distance a pot shop can be from a school or playground, but applicants must include an overview of potentially sensitive adjacent uses in their proposals.
“Sensitive uses include locations that sell other controlled substances, such as alcohol and lottery tickets, places where children and youths are likely to congregate, and travel corridors to off-shore communities,” he said.
After Canada’s federal government legalized cannabis last October, Tofino immediately announced a temporary ban on all cannabis sales as council and district staff worked through public engagement sessions and online feedback to shape the Temporary Use Permit process.
“Council heard clearly from local residents and stakeholder groups that balancing community health, economic opportunity, and social benefit are important factors to consider as cannabis retail operations are established in Tofino,” said Tofino mayor Josie Osborne.
“This new cannabis retail TUP process helps set a responsible and community-driven direction for a new industry. I anticipate this new sector will quickly become another part of Tofino’s successful small business fabric that gives back to our community.”
Rodgers added that taking the time to engage with the community before allowing pot shops to open helped Tofino move forward with a process that district staff is confident the community is comfortable with.
“The public consultation results helped shape the TUP process,” he said. “I think that we struck a reasonable balance between the public consultation results and the responsibilities of a local government in our approach to this new opportunity.”