WATCH: Three months after recreational marijuana was legalized in Canada, there’s still nowhere to legally buy it on Vancouver Island. Tess van Straaten reports.
Business is brisk at Trees in Cook Street Village — one of just a handful of pot shops in Victoria that stayed open after filing paperwork for a provincial licence.
“There is not as yet an alternative model in place so while we’re waiting for applications to be processed, while there are no licenced locations, we’re here to serve the people of the City of Victoria,” says Alex Robb of Trees.
Three months after recreational marijuana was legalized in Canada, there’s still nowhere you can go to legally buy it in Victoria — or anywhere else on Vancouver Island.
“It is very surprising,” says Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “We didn’t expect them to all open at once but certainly, three months after legalization, especially in the capital city that has had a process in place, it is surprising not to see any dispensaries open.”
Only seven licences have been issued in B.C., all in Greater Vancouver and the Interior-North region.
Another four are approved, with conditions, in those regions.
But 400 applications have been submitted, including 88 for Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
“So far we’ve sent 12 applications back to the province (confirming zoning) and we’ve had zero come back to us to approve,” Helps explains. “I think, quite frankly, they’re just understaffed but it is discouraging.”
B.C.’s Attorney General wasn’t available for an interview but in an emailed statement, the ministry says there is “no typical length of time for an application to be processed.”
Officials say it depends on several factors, including the complexity of the application, so it’s not clear how long it will be before Victoria gets its first legal pot shop.
“We could still be about six weeks or two months before there are any approved locations,” says Robb.
That’s with zoning and a business licence from the City of Victoria already in place.
But several shops don’t have zoning approval and haven’t even applied for a province licence.
Victoria’s mayor says the province needs to shut them down those pot shops right away.
“There are dispensaries that are operating without zoning, without a city business licence, that appear to just be able to stay open,” says Helps. “That’s not okay.”