Vancouver Island city demands pot dispensaries directly fund bylaw, policing, education costs

Langford has previously been hostile to the idea of dispensaries, but council is now accepting proposals for up to five recreational stores to operate when marijuana becomes legal later this year.

Council's 'cautious' approach to marijuana businesses welcomed for prioritizing community

Langford wants business applying to sell recreational marijuana to detail how much money they will contribute to offset costs for taxpayers. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)

The City of Langford wants recreational cannabis retailers in the municipality to help cover the costs of regulation, enforcement and education around the drug. 

Langford has previously been hostile to the idea of dispensaries, but council is now accepting proposals for up to five recreational stores to operate when marijuana becomes legal later this year. 

The city says applicants must detail the direct financial contributions they plan to make to policing and administration.

That money will go toward funding bylaw and RCMP costs associated with recreational cannabis and education campaigns in local schools. 

'Anxiety' in the community

Coun. Lillian Szpak says the approach is intended to remove the tax burden from residents. 

"There's a little bit of anxiety right now in the community," she said. 

"Not everyone is embracing the sale of cannabis and you know there's two sides to every story. Our job is to listen to that and that's why we're taking this cautious approach." 

Langford won't rezone for cannabis storefronts, but instead will issue temporary use permits.

Szpak says that will help the municipality maintain control over dispensaries in the city. 

"We will have control if the situation does not work out, if the shop is not welcome in that particular area, or the shop owner isn't compliant, or for whatever reason." 

Dispensaries welcome demands

Dispensary operators aren't fazed by the unique approach Langford is taking. 

Trees Dispensaries operates several locations on Vancouver Island and is actively expanding.  

General manager Alex Robb says while the temporary use permits may dissuade some people, he thinks it sends a message that only businesses committed to the community should apply. 

Robb thinks Langford's approach is simply a more explicit version of what municipalities like neighbouring Victoria are looking for from cannabis retailers. 

"We're not unused to this concept of trying to spend some of the profits that we're making on services for the community." 

James Whitehead, who owns local dispensary chain Medijuana, says Langford's approach is a smart one.

"Those five spots will be heavily sought after," says Whitehead. "It also weeds out those not able or willing to bring a community-first understanding of doing business."

Whitehead and Robb both say their companies plan to submit proposals to Langford council. The city is accepting proposals until June 1.