Despite concerns that ranged from from increased crime to congregating drug addicts to pungent odours, littering and the corruption of youth, Coquitlam council unanimously approved a cannabis shop on Glen Drive during Monday’s meeting.
Council also approved another, less controversial pot shop application for 2700 Barnet Highway at the meeting.
While city staff deemed 2957 Glen Drive an “appropriate fit” for The Local Leaf Cannabis shop, many neighbours took issue with the shop sharing space in the residential building..
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“I do wish the proponents good luck in locating a store in Coquitlam, just not in my building,” one resident said.
‘A hell of a stigma’
Another resident expressed concerns about marijuana use leading to dangerous drugs like cocaine and fentanyl, a concern “not based on fact,” Mayor Richard Stewart pointed out.
“There are people with chronic pain, the same kind of pain that I have, that use cannabis because it’s safer than almost all the other narcotic medications that are available,” he said. “And no, I’m not going to go to the next sentence yet because there’s a hell of a stigma with the use of marijuana . . . for pain management.”
Some residents suggested the shop be moved half a block to a nearby strip mall, an idea that flummoxed Coun. Brent Asmundson.
“I don’t get that at all,” he said, explaining his support for the proposal.
Legal, less cool
“Now that marijuana is legalized, regulated, controlled, it’s a safer product today than buying something off the street,” he said.
Asmundson also suggested the demand for marijuana may have shifted.
“Being legal takes away the cool factor,” he said. “Now it’s no longer cool to do.”
The RCMP have reported no link between cannabis shops and increased crime. Neighbouring municipalities who have allowed pot shops reported no uptick in bylaw violations, according to Coquitlam city staff.
Coun. Steve Kim said he questioned his support.
“The comments did make me struggle a bit on the location,” Kim said.
However, Kim said he ultimately decided a breadth of customers – including those with medicinal or therapeutic needs – might be well served by the location.
The concerns are valid, noted Coun. Craig Hodge.
“The applicant has to be able to prove that they can operate . . . a successful, legal business without having the community impact that we heard concerns about tonight,” Hodge said.
Monday’s meeting will likely mark the end of the outcry, according to Stewart.
“I suspect, though, that this will be pretty close to the last we hear of it,” he said. “Prove me right.”
The shop would operate daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The closest school, Gleneagle Secondary, is 343 metres away, measured from the respective property lines.
The proprietors plan to employ 16 staff split between full- and part-time employees.
While the Glen Drive application elicited 33 emails in response, the prospect of a cannabis shop at 2700 Barnet Highway resulted in a single email. The writer of the email opposed the shop “due to the visibility of the store from a hiking trail they frequently use,” according to a city staff report.
KJ’s Best Cannabis is slated to take up residence next to a stereo service business and a wood products retailer.
The shop would operate from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, employing six full-time workers.
Both applications need one more formal vote from council to proceed.