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Now plenty of options choosing a cannabis store in Delta

The city currently has a moratorium on accepting any new dispensary applications
ladner, bc cannabis store delta optimist photo
The new cannabis store in Ladner. The City of Delta has processed nine cannabis dispensary applications and council, so far, approved eight.

Cannabis stores are now part of Delta’s retail landscape as additional outlets recently opened in Ladner and Tsawwassen, while a couple more approved by council this year are to open in North Delta.

The new stores join others that have already opened this year throughout the municipality with just one application remaining on the books, a proposal to open a dispensary in an industrial area at 7550 River Road.

If the last application is approved, Delta will have nine cannabis stores. That could be as far as the city is willing to go after council last fall approved a moratorium on accepting any new applications until the city has dealt with the current batch.

It’s not clear if the new council, once elected Oct. 15, will consider keeping the moratorium in place.

Thus far, it hasn’t been an issue raised during the civic election campaign.

Prior to the legalization of cannabis in Canada in 2018, council passed a bylaw amendment prohibiting cannabis stores in all non-Agricultural Land Reserve zones, but the city would consider applications on a case-by-case basis.

While some cities, including neighboring Richmond and Surrey continue to prohibit dispensaries, many others regulate them by adding special regulations in their zoning bylaws or by creating a policy statement with guidelines.

Most cities have chosen to define a set of "sensitive uses" and then prohibit dispensaries from a certain distance (buffer) from those uses.

The buffers established by cities range from 75 metres in Port Moody to 500 metres in Kelowna. Sensitive uses tend to be places where children or vulnerable populations are present.

The planning department has pointed in council reports that many cities have also chosen to set a cap on the number of cannabis dispensaries in their municipality, either by defining a set number that they will allow or by establishing minimum distances between stores.

Delta currently doesn’t have a set number. The two dispensaries in Tsawwassen and two of the stores in North Delta will be about a block from each other.

Of the 12 municipalities reviewed by Delta staff, only the City of Vancouver has delegated decision-making authority to staff. All other municipalities require a council decision to permit a cannabis dispensary.

Delta Police will report back to council in early 2023 on any concerns related to the approved retail cannabis operations in the city, statistics on the use of cannabis obtained illegally and whether that figure has decreased since legalization, as well as the police department's calls for service for clandestine production operations.

Meanwhile, the federal government recently announced it is launching a legislative review of the Cannabis Act, looking at several aspects of legalization including the domestic cannabis industry and the black market.

The government noted parliamentarians recognized the need for an early assessment of the new approach to cannabis control and included a provision requiring a review in the act.

The review is to help ensure that the act adapts to the current situation and continues to meet needs and expectations.

An independent expert panel will lead that review.