An application for a cannabis retail shop located behind the Ucluelet Liquor Store at 1786 Peninsula Road was defeated by a three to two vote during a special council meeting on Sept. 18.
Councillors Rachelle Cole, Lara Kemps, and Jennifer Hoar voted in opposition of approving the application. Coun. Marilyn McEwen and Mayor Mayco Noël voted in favour of rezoning the property to become a cannabis retailer.
Coun. Cole, a BC Ambulance Unit Chief, gave an impassioned speech during the Sept. 18 special meeting. She raised many concerns about the impacts cannabis retail would have on the community. She highlighted the lack of roadside screening devices and mental health issues associated with cannabis usage amongst youth.
“In a community already plagued with a long history of substance abuse that goes untreated, masked and accepted for decades, introducing yet another outlet is sending a message to our youth that it’s OK. Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right or good for them,” said Cole, adding that as a paramedic about 40 per cent of calls are derived from substance abuse.
“Because of all this, if we could save even one youth from harm then we would have done our job as council, as parents and as humans. This is the message we need to send,” she said.
“We have the opportunity to slow this down until the horse catches up with the cart,” Cole said.
Coun. Kemps said she fully supported Cole and commended her for a tear-jerking speech.
“I don’t want this to seem like we are condoning it. This is not what we are as a community. I just can’t sit up here and let this pass,” said Kemps.
Coun. McEwen remarked that for such a contentious topic, she was surprised more people didn’t come to the Sept. 9 public hearing.
“When I did talk to people for their opinion surprisingly most of the people did not see a problem as long as it was a responsible applicant would open the cannabis retail,” said McEwen.
“Mr. Hanson is a very credible applicant. He lived here for many years and continues to do business at the Lodge and the cold wine and beer store. He has years of experience operating a liquor store here and in Port Alberni, which is also a controlled substance. The Liquor Control board has completed the financial integrity checks and security screenings as a form of pre-approval,” McEwen continued.
Coun. Hoar also commended councillor Cole for her statements.
“I’ve read an awful lot of scientific papers, and the effects of cannabis use on youth under 26 is phenomenal. The long-term effects are sad,” said Hoar.
“We all know that youth in our town will manage to get their hands on it if there is store as they get their hands on alcohol even though they are not suppose to buy it until they are 19. I feel there are just too many unknowns. The lack of checks and balances. There are a lot of things that need to happen before we can safely have this sort of business in our town,” she said, adding that as a resident of Larch Road she thought the increase in traffic would not be a good idea.
Mayor Noël said it was not an easy decision. He thought more public engagement was needed.
“I’m right on the fence here. I want to support the applicants because I think it is a good business venture. It’s legal and conforming. And then, there’s that social aspects of what’s going to happen 12 months from now when we do the old ‘I told you so’? We’re the ones making the decision and we’re the ones that are going to be taking the brunt,” said Noël.
Applicant Andrew Hanson was unavailable for comment.
A second cannabis retail shop ‘Platinum Cannabis’ located on 1972 Peninsula Road between Abbondonza’s Pizza and Vancouver Island Hydroponics was granted the opportunity of another public hearing due to submitting tardy documents. Information regarding the public hearing for ‘Platinum Cannabis’ will be published in upcoming editions of the Westerly.
READ: Tofino approves two pot shops permits (Aug. 24, 2019)