The Victoria Cannabis Company will be one of the first farm-to-consumer cannabis operations to open in the province after the City of Victoria approved rezoning for its Vic West operation Thursday.
The majority of council voted to adopt bylaw amendments to allow the company to establish a retail operation at its facility at 340 Mary St., which means the facility will encompass four Health Canada licences for a nursery, micro-cultivation and processing as well as a sales facility on its ground floor.
The company called the retail outlet the final piece of the puzzle to establish it as a farm-to-consumer enterprise.
Coun. Jeremy Caradonna said he was willing to support the venture, despite the fact the store is within 400 metres of another cannabis retailer, which rubs against a city policy that dictates cannabis retailers must be more than 400 metres apart.
“My expectation is that this farm-gate operation will be substantially different than your average cannabis operation and that they’ve made commitments to be focused principally on their own products and on B.C. products,” he said. “I do think this is going to be a game changer for Vic West. I am convinced that it will bring a lot of new business into the neighbourhood. In fact, my hope is that a rising tide lifts all ships.”
Caradonna said the farm-gate ideal of shrinking the distance between consumer and producer so that people can know where their recreational cannabis or their medicine comes from is a step in the right direction.
“You can see the production facility, you can meet the grower. And of course, that’s increasingly important to consumers of food these days,” he said.
Some councillors noted there could be tourism benefits of such an operation, with Chris Coleman likening it to the early days of craft beer on the Island.
“I would remind people to look back to 1980 when there were no brew pubs in the province of British Columbia, and now we see a vibrant industry on Vancouver Island that’s known as the Ale Trail, but it’s based on craft breweries,” he said. “That’s exactly where this is going to go.”
Councillors Stephen Hammond and Marg Gardiner both opposed the rezoning.
Gardiner said the store will be in a residential area and the residents could be disturbed by the added traffic, especially if it becomes a tourism attraction.
“If we are pushing tourism, it should be in a place that can serve the tourists without greatly impacting residents nearby,” she said.
The province created the farm-gate licence in 2020 to allow cannabis sales from stores located at federally licensed production sites in B.C. The idea was to have cannabis growers create a diverse and sustainable legal cannabis economy.
The City of Victoria has signalled it is likely to reconsider its stance on how it rezones for cannabis retail locations and this year council asked staff to reconsider the guidelines that are in place for where retailers can set up shop.
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