Despite a recommendation from city staff and a majority vote by White Rock council to reject a licence for a hemp-themed retail store on the waterfront, the business venture will proceed.
Council voted 4-2 this week to refuse an application by Victor ‘Randy’ Caine for a licence to operate Hempyz Gifts and Novelties at 14967 Marine Dr. However, the city’s bylaws state that council can only deny such applications if the vote is unanimous.
“Only council has the right to refuse it,” Paul Stanton, the city’s director of planning and development services, told the politicians after the vote, in response to a question from Coun. Helen Fathers as to its impact.
“Staff does not have the right to refuse it.”
Hempyz had opened its doors last Friday, three days before the council vote. Its merchandise includes items made of hemp, a less potent part of the cannabis plant than marijuana buds.
Caine, a Langley resident, had applied for the licence in December, and sat in chambers Monday as Stanton explained reasoning for his recommendation.
In addition to the fact Caine had yet to pay the associated fees, Stanton cited concerns regarding the business from area residents and White Rock RCMP. Two other stores of Caine’s located in Langley have been subject to numerous break-ins, he said.
As well, there have been concerns raised about the use of the storefronts as referral sites for the Langley Medical Marijuana Dispensary, he said. The dispensary was the site of a police raid last July that led to a possession for the purpose of trafficking charge against Caine which is to be tried in B.C. Supreme Court. A date is to be set today (Thursday) and Caine said he is requesting a trial by jury.
Safety and security concerns are grounds for denying the licence, Stanton said.
Coun. Helen Fathers – who, with Coun. Louise Hutchinson, voted against the recommendation – was critical of Stanton’s assessment, in particular, the reference to LMMD.
“I have great difficulty in the statement from staff, because there’s no mention of a medical dispensary (in Caine’s application),” Fathers said. “I’m not sure where that came from.”
Noting that the dispensary site is closed, Fathers said she has no problem with the Marine Drive store, which is “a business store for the beach, for which we need business.”
Caine, 58, told Peace Arch News Tuesday that he was “delighted” to get the licence, but not surprised there was a level of resistance to granting it. Many people don’t understand what Hempyz is about, he said.
“I understood coming into this that this was sort of an area that was fairly grey… that there were going to be concerns and obstacles and challenges,” Caine said.
He described Hempyz as a family-friendly boutique store that is more about the hippy culture than the “adult side” of things. While it will offer pot-leaf T-shirts, Cheech and Chong dolls and cosmetics, it won’t carry such drug paraphernalia as pipes and bongs, he said.
“We’re simply here to celebrate a culture – a hippy culture, if you will – and have some fun with it,” he said.
In council, Hutchinson said she was “mind-boggled” by the fact Caine was able to open the Marine Drive store prior to paying for and receiving the licence, to which Stanton replied Caine had chosen to take a risk.
Caine said he had received no indication there would be any issues with his business until two weeks before the scheduled opening.
“I’ve acted in very good faith all the way through. In terms of opening, I felt that that was really just a continuation of acting in good faith.
“Every other municipality I’ve worked with, as long as you’ve proceeded along, got your inspections, met all of the requirements, then at the end you would secure your business licence. Here, it seems to be different. They want to issue the licence ahead of time in hopes you meet the obligations,” he told PAN.
“I don’t know how you do that.”
Caine added he was offended at one point Monday night, when Stanton said his recommendation is not against the type of business proposed, “it’s the business itself.”
“The desire to refuse my licence was not based upon my business, but was based upon me,” Caine said. “To have my character assailed the way that it was, was very offensive. They went way, way outside the box in terms of me applying for a business licence.”