FORT ST, JOHN, B.C. – Fort St. John councillors have voted in favour of a recommendation from staff that the City not adopt a special business licensing fee for cannabis retail operators to pay once the substance becomes legal in Canada in October.
At the regular meeting on July 23rd, Council voted in favour of a zoning amendment bylaw that would only allow cannabis retail operations in the City’s downtown core area, provided the property where they are situated is 200 metres from the closest school and 100m from the nearest park.
In her report to Council at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, City Planner Ashley Murphey recommended that no cap be placed on the total number of Cannabis Retail business licences that are issued and that business licensing fees remain the same at $125.00 for all businesses within the City.
Murphey explained in her report that “a review of potential costs associated with the new use “Cannabis Retail” was conducted and it was determined that there is currently insufficient evidence to warrant an increase in fees, as it is likely this business will generate the same level of administrative costs as any other retail business.”
Murphy said that the City was expecting that most enforcement of cannabis retail would be done by the provincial government and the RCMP, similar to the current enforcement of liquor stores in the City.
The communities of Chetwynd, Hudson’s Hope, and Tumbler Ridge currently have not announced an increase from their standard business fees, which range from $50 to $150.
Both Dawson Creek and Grande Prairie have announced that cannabis retail business licenses will cost $2,500/year, due to an anticipated increase in administrative and enforcement costs.
Higher still are the fees in North Vancouver and Squamish, which are $3,691 and $5,000/year respectively.
The Village of Pouce Coupe is currently in the process of amending its business license bylaw, with proposed fees of between $5,000 and $10,000 per year.
Council ended up voting in favour of maintaining the current business license schedule and not limiting the number of licenses for cannabis retail.
In addition, staff will be preparing a report in 18 months’ time to Council examining the implications of cannabis retail on Bylaw Enforcement, the RCMP, and other City services, while the City will also be getting feedback at that time from the RCMP, School District #60, the Chamber of Commerce, and Northern Health.