(THE NEWS/files)Brett Steves, with Hammond Compassion Society, is awaiting word on application.

(THE NEWS/files)Brett Steves, with Hammond Compassion Society, is awaiting word on application.

City of Maple Ridge likes provincially run pot shops

New rules for reviewing retail cannabis stores

Maple Ridge’s outgoing council took on the tough task of approving bylaw changes to allow recreational marijuana to be sold within commercial zones in the city.

That approval was one of the last acts of a council before its four-year term ended in October.

Maple Ridge’s new council has continued the work by passing a policy that sets out the framework for approving pot stores.

And it’s a policy that’s picky about private operators and partial towards provincially run stores.

The Cannabis Retail Processing and Evaluation Criteria policy came into effect Nov. 27 and favours government-run shops setting up within the city because of the government’s “strong track record handling a controlled substance.”

For example, if a private store and a government store both want to locate within a one-kilometre area, the city will give preference to the government application, partly also because of the government’s ability to ignore local bylaws if required.

The policy also requires that Maple Ridge waits for three months until it receives an application from B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch before even considering private applications.

Some of the other requirements include notifying neighbouring property owners who are within 200 metres of a store and getting input from Ridge Meadows RCMP.

Once all the details have been filed, a cannabis application review panel composed of staff will review each application and write a report for council, which then will decide whether or not to make a recommendation.

Under the province’s cannabis regulations, cities have vetoes over whether any recreational pot store opens within its borders.

“The city is committed to ensuring each retail store will be an appropriate fit, and a good community partner,” the policy states.

Maple Ridge cites the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch’s checking of ID that will help ensure pot doesn’t fall into the hands of minors and also its support for “stable, well-paying jobs in the community.”

The City of Maple Ridge has received at least four applications to open pot retail locations but there could be as many as 10.

In contrast to Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows has banned retail pot operations.

However, that city wants to host a cannabis forum for Metro Vancouver cities “to discuss issues associated with legalization of recreational and medical cannabis for Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley local governments.”

Incoming Pitt Meadows Mayor Bill Dingwall supports the event which is supposed to take place early in the new year.

“There may be legal implications if we deny a retail application, or if we are dealing with somebody who wants to grow pot in the farmlands, but it’s not meeting with our bylaws,” Dingwall said earlier.

“Having the Metro mayors and staff working together to figure out how we manoeuvre through all of this, I think is really, really important,” he said.

Meanwhile, Brett Steves, manager of Hammond Compassion Society on Maple Crescent in Hammond, in Maple Ridge, remains the only outlet open for recreational marijuana.

Steeves said he doesn’t plan on closing for an extended period while he awaits a licence. Instead, if he receives word he’s about to be approved, he’ll close his shop, move out all of the medicinal pot, then move in all of the government-supplied product.

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