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Survey input sought as Surrey proposes to ‘carefully allow’ 12 cannabis stores

Canadian Evergreen, Media Partners

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Does Surrey need pot stores?

The City of Surrey is asking people – residents or not – to weigh-in on a Retail Cannabis Framework Survey as it proposes to “carefully allow” 12 cannabis stores at a maximum number of two in each of Surrey’s six communities of Cloverdale, Fleetwood, Guildford, Newton, South Surrey and Whalley.

Council has toyed with the cannabis store file for some time now. Last summer it sent city staff back to the drawing board after the politicians were asked to approve a cannabis retail store on property owned by the City of Surrey in Newton Town Centre as a “pilot” project.

READ MORE: Pitt Meadows gives go-ahead to 2 new cannabis stores

Coun. Doug Elford said at the time he’s opposed to the City of Surrey “becoming pot landlords” and asked for a re-think. Don Luymes, Surrey’s general manager of planning and development, also said at the time the idea is to give the City of Surrey more control over the number and location of cannabis stores, as opposed to Vancouver’s 71 locations, which he likened to “kind of a wild-west of cannabis retail outlets.”

“We’re not landlords for the liquor industry and I firmly believe there’s better use for city lands, particularly for affordable housing for example,” Elford said.

This latest foray into the world of weed businesses establishes some ground rules, namely that such stores would be permitted only in town centres and commercially designated areas in the Official Community Plan, only on commercially zoned land that allows retail stores, and that Cannabis stores cannot be located within 200 metres of “sensitive uses and areas to limit exposure to children and youth.” These include schools, community and recreation centres, parks and playgrounds, and other cannabis retail and production locations.

READ MORE: Health Canada data sheds light on current cannabis use

According to the City of Surrey, the ratio between population and the 12 proposed stores would be 1:47,000 people compared to 1:8,200 in Vancouver (80 stores), 1:6,500 in North Vancouver (nine stores) and 1:3,200 (28 stores) in Victoria.

The survey asks respondents to divulge their age group – for example 19 or younger, 30 to 39 years, etcetera – their ballpark total annual household income before taxes, and their ethnicity.

The survey is open until Feb. 5.

Meantime, the Surrey Board of Trade applauds the initiative and, according to a press release issued Jan. 24, “welcomes the City of Surrey’s proactive step towards establishing a thoughtful and regulated approach to cannabis retail within the community.”

READ MORE: Rural Ontario cannabis shops succeed by being ‘small and nimble’

Anita Huberman, CEO of the board, said it “supports a framework that is developed collaboratively with the cannabis industry and the public.”

“Surrey can implement a safe and efficient cannabis regulatory framework, including amendments to zoning bylaws, business licence bylaws, bylaw notice enforcement bylaws, and municipal ticket information bylaws,” she said. “We hope that the framework implementation happens this Spring.”

She noted the “rapidly growing industry” contributes more than $17 billion annually to Canada’s economy and the “legal cannabis industry creates thousands of direct jobs, with tens of thousands of ancillary jobs linked to its success.”

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