'Everyone's being responsible:' Saskatoon pot shop owner cheers decision to drop licence fee from $10K to $85

On Monday night, Saskatoon city council voted to significantly drop the licence fees for marijuana stores — from $10,000 per year down to $85.

Councillors voted to drop business licence fee Monday night, saying there's no need for higher fees

The Pot Shack owner Geoff Conn is pleased the City of Saskatoon is lowering business licence fees for marijuana stores. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Geoff Conn says it was a welcome surprise.

On Monday night, Saskatoon city council voted to significantly drop the licence fee for marijuana stores — from $10,000 per year down to $85.

"Everyone's being responsible," said Conn, owner of The Pot Shack in Saskatoon. "There's no need to have hefty fees to cover things that aren't going to occur."

The high licence fees have been contentious since they were implemented last year, shortly before legalization.

The reasoning behind the higher licence fees for marijuana stores primarily revolved around greater enforcement of the young industry. 

However, a majority of councillors voted in favour Monday of establishing a "level playing field" for the marijuana retailers, in line with what most other businesses pay.

"The business is no different than liquor establishments that pay the $85," said Ward 3 Coun. Ann Iwanchuk, who voted in favour of lowering the licence fee.

 "So I didn't see any rationale to have a higher fee for the cannabis stores."

Coun. Zach Jeffries (Ward 10), who also voted in favour of reducing the fee, does not believe that resources aimed at shutting down black-market marijuana stores should come from those operating legally in the industry.

"Honestly, I don't think that it is the job of legal cannabis operators to pay for pay for those who need to be shut down because they're doing things illegally," said Jeffries. 

"If I'm operating a legal car dealership, that shouldn't be my responsibility to bear the cost of shutting people down who choose not to obey the bylaws."

A startup fee of $20,000 is still in place for any new entrants to the marijuana market.

In June of 2018, a motion to drop the startup licensing fee to $500 was narrowly defeated.

Council also voted Monday to drop the cost of relocating a marijuana store from $500 to $125, the same cost paid by most businesses in the city.

With files from Guy Quenneville