Victoria approves first rezoning of marijuana dispensary

Trees Dispensary has become the first cannabis retailer to be rezoned under the City of Victoria’s new rules.

Council voted unanimously in favour of a rezoning application for Trees’ location at 546 Yates St. following a public hearing on Thursday night.

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Mayor Lisa Helps said the city did not co-ordinate with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to rezone its first pot retailer on the same day that he announced legislation to legalize recreational marijuana.

“I can certainly say it does give me great comfort.” Helps said.

“It makes it easy to support this.”

Victoria has enacted licensing and zoning bylaws to regulate cannabis dispensaries within the city.

Helps said Trees fits with the streetscape and is an appropriate use of land, and that the company, which has four stores in Greater Victoria and one in Nanaimo, has set the bar high for future applicants.

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said she had concerns about the rezoning occurring before federal legislation comes into effect in July 2018. And while Trees has performed well, council has received complaints about odour and noise at other dispensaries in the city, she said.

Alex Robb, director and general manager of Trees, said the company provides medical marijuana in many forms — including capsules and balms — to about 100 customers a day.

The dispensary fits well into the retail-heavy area, he said.

“History, and probably the other municipalities in this province, will view Victoria’s actions to get ahead of this issue as very wise,” Robb said.

The city essentially adopted a “first in the door” policy when it forwarded Trees’ application to public hearing, while deferring consideration of an application from Pure Releaf for a dispensary less than half a block away. The city’s rezoning policy mandates that storefront cannabis retailers must be at least 200 metres from each other.

Under Victoria’s rules, cannabis-related businesses must not allow individuals under 19 on the premises, allow consumption on the premises, advertise beyond minimal signage, or be open after 8 p.m. or before 7 a.m.

They must install air filtration systems to reduce odour for neighbours, have a security plan, post health and safety warning signs and ensure the premises are only used for the sale of medical cannabis and accessory uses.

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