When marijuana dispensaries started popping up with greater frequency around Vancouver a few years ago, some sections of the city began to resemble Amsterdam. On Broadway, West 4th Avenue, and Granville Street, for example, three or more storefronts have established themselves on single blocks.
One of the goals of a regulatory process the city initiated in April 2015 was to address those clusters and thin out any concentration of pot shops. Among many new rules officially adopted in June 2015 is a provision that states no two storefronts should stand within 300 metres of one another.
But a plan then city manager Penny Ballem presented to council on April 28 wasn’t expected to reduce the total number of dispensaries, which now stands at more than 90.
According to a PowerPoint slide from Ballem’s presentation, as many as 60 or 70 existing dispensary locations would have to close during the regulatory process. But it was projected many would reopen, and that when all was said and done, the total number of shops would likely stand between 80 and 100.
Now, the councillor who has taken the lead on the marijuana file, Kerry Jang, has said the true number of marijuana dispensaries left standing might be far fewer, at least for a while.
In a telephone interview, Jang told the Straight he expects no more than 15 to 20 of existing dispensaries to remain open for business.
“That’s just my own assessment and I could be wrong,” he noted. “It really depends on how many get through all the other licensing requirements.”
Jang explained the 80-to-100 figure was based only on distance requirements related to zoning. Those calculations did not take into account other factors that can disqualify a business from continuing to operate, Jang continued. For example, a criminal record or whether a dispensary was ever caught selling to minors.
“Eighty to 100 was based on the potential locations under zoning,” Jang said. “If you draw all the circles with all the distancing and everything, there is roughly 90 to 100 locations that could possibly host a marijuana dispensary. But then I took into account steps two and three.”
Jang added his estimate of 15-to-20 storefronts only concerns the first round of dispensary licensing. That process pertains to 176 applicants who filed paperwork by an August 21 deadline. Those applications are currently under review and have two more stages to pass before licenses are issued.
The city expects that process to conclude with the first round of licenses granted sometime in December.