Cowichan Tribes is threatening to pull it’s Costa Canna cannabis store from the Cowichan Commons shopping centre if the municipality allows the provincial government to set up a B.C. Cannabis store there, too.
On Aug. 21, North Cowichan council gave third reading to both the applications from the province and from Cowichan Tribes but given both locations are within 800 metres from a provincial highway, approval from the provincial government’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure was required for both applications to proceed any further.
“We sent both the applications to MOTI for their approval and MOTI has now come back and said yes to both,” North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring has confirmed.
“However in the meantime, we received a letter from Chief [William] Seymour… last week, asking us to reconsider the approval for the provincial one essentially saying ‘look, if you approve the provincial one we’re not interested. We’re pulling out because we don’t think we can compete with them because they have a price advantage, they’ve got the monopoly on online sales’ etc., and also referencing our strategic plan which talks about government-to-government relations.”
Chief Seymour confirmed Siebring’s interpretation of the letter.
“We’re asking for fairness,” Seymour said on Tuesday. “We feel we can’t compete against the province. The way they’ve got the process set up, they’ve created a monoploy for themselves.”
Seymour said Tribes has been waiting “months and months and months” for a licence and the province doesn’t have to jump through the same hoops.
“They set the prices so they can tell us what the prices are going to be. They don’t have to follow those same policies. They can sell at a lower price than we can,” Seymour said.
“Nobody in B.C. as far as I know has been approved,” he added. “Only provincial shops are opening up. In our letter to North Cowichan, we said if they’re going to approve both, then we’re going to pull our application because we can’t compete with them. We’re too small.”
On the basis of that letter the North Cowichan mayor exercised his mayoral authority to order council to reconsider the approval of third reading for the provincial application.
The issue is on North Cowichan’s Sept. 4 council agenda.
“Council will have to look at it again,” Siebring said. “If on reconsideration council decides to take into account the concerns of the chief and turn down the provincial application then we don’t go to adoption on that.”
But, if council decides to stay the course and pass third reading and move on to adopt both applications, “then we’ll see what happens,” Siebring added.
The irony, said the mayor, is that the province doesn’t need North Cowichan’s permission to proceed with a B.C. Cannabis store.
“Even if we turn them down…they override our land use rules with their authority so the fact that they came to us and asked is a formality,” he said.
To proceed without North Cowichan’s blessing “would be a political call on the part of the province,” Siebring noted. “I don’t know whether they would do that or not.”