Although cannabis has been legal in Canada for nearly five years, cannabis retailers are not allowed to operate in the city of Surrey.
But that might soon change.
On Friday, industry stakeholders gathered at a Surrey Board of Trade event to discuss allowing cannabis stores in the city.
In a statement to CBC, Mayor Brenda Locke said council will consider allowing cannabis stores in Surrey, and staff are working on a report for council’s consideration.
Former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum was explicitly against allowing cannabis businesses in the city.
The development comes a month after Surrey Board of Trade President and CEO Anita Huberman called on the city to remove red tape for cannabis businesses.
At the Friday event, Huberman said watching surrounding municipalities like White Rock and Delta welcome cannabis businesses while B.C.’s second-largest city falls behind has been “confusing” and “disappointing.”
She said it’s hurting the city’s rapidly growing economy.
“We’re really trying to focus on making sure that industry can thrive, and really push the illegal marijuana market out,” said Huberman, adding she hopes the city will get rid of the restrictions before the summer.
Coun. Mike Bose supports the city allowing cannabis shops, but says it might take longer than a few months.
“I would like to see something moving forward this year, before the end of the year,” said Bose, whose main concern is ensuring cannabis is not easily accessible to youth in the city. Nonetheless, he is optimistic cannabis shops can be run in a safe way.
“As much as I am not a fan of marijuana use, I would like to see us providing that service to our citizens in the city.”
A medical approach to cannabis use
Jody Toor, an integrative medical doctor, says she would like to open her own cannabis business in Surrey given the opportunity.
She envisions a medical-oriented approach where medical professionals can educate and consult with customers in the cannabis store itself.
“I work with a lot of patients that have mental health, chronic pain, cancer, PTSD, and they don’t know where to go,” said Toor.
She says those who use cannabis for medical purposes benefit from having easier access to it.
“Why are we behind as a community? I think City of Surrey should definitely continue this dialogue.”
Jesse Dhani, president and co-founder of retailer Inspired Cannabis — which has locations in three provinces including several in the Lower Mainland — says if permitted, they would like to open a shop in Surrey.
“I have a lot of interest in Surrey, I think there’s a lot of potential here,” said Dhani.
He says having faced stigma from his own family about his business, he wants to help educate the community and change negative perceptions associated with cannabis businesses in Surrey.
“I’m really keen on changing the mindset.”