(Brian Shamblen/Flickr)

Number-one bud: Q.C. cannabis store could be the first on Haida Gwaii

A local business owner is looking to open the first licensed cannabis store on Haida Gwaii.

Bernie Howlett, co-owner of the Misty Harbour Inn and Howlers Liquor Store, is proposing to open The Rural Leaf in the Howler’s building at 3200 Oceanview Drive in Queen Charlotte.

Since the Canadian government lifted a 95-year prohibition on recreational cannabis in October, people in B.C. can apply to open a store that sells dried-flower cannabis, pre-rolled joints, oils, capsules, or cannabis seeds to adults 19 and older.

Sometime around October 2019, the stores will also be allowed to sell cannabis edibles, vape pens, and concentrates.

To secure a licence, owners not only need to meet the criteria and pass an inspection arranged by the B.C. Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB), they also need to show support from the municipality, regional district, First Nations reserve, Nisga’a or treaty-settlement land where they intend to open.

“The role of a local government in the cannabis retail store licensing program is to gather the views of residents prior to making written recommendations to the LCRB,” wrote Lori Wiedeman, chief administrative officer for the Village of Queen Charlotte, in a letter to the other municipalities and the North Coast Regional District.

Because it is the first time anyone has applied to open a cannabis store on Haida Gwaii, the Village of Queen Charlotte is also seeking comment from nearby property owners, the Council of the Haida Nation, the Skidegate and Old Massett band councils, Northern Health, School District 50, the Living and Learning School, and the RCMP.

Anyone who wishes to comment on the proposal can write to cao@queencharlotte.ca by Feb. 8.

People can also have a say at the Queen Charlotte council meeting on March 4, where councillors will review a report that sums up the application and community feedback.

Even if the council supports it, there is still a chance the application could be rejected by the LCRB.

In a guide for people looking to open a cannabis store, the LCRB lists several criteria for a licence — including some that aren’t fully developed.

For example, future cannabis store workers will have to finish an online training course and stores will have to display “social responsibility” posters, but neither is available yet.

Besides rules to prohibit access by minors, the rules call for cannabis stores to avoid sharing space with other businesses; to have opaque walls; security cameras inside and out; no drive-throughs, online sales or deliveries; and to make any disposed cannabis unfit for humans or animals before throwing it out.

To display the different cannabis for sale, the guide recommends using smell jars attached to a display case or counter.

All cannabis stores in B.C. will be supplied by licensed producers who sell through province’s Liquor Distribution Branch as a wholesaler. As of last week, the LDB listed 29 different producers, from Aphria to Zenabis. Depending on the quality, the wholesale price for dried-flower to pre-roll cannabis currently ranges from $6 to $14 per gram.

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