Vancouver Standing Committee passes motion to reduce retail cannabis licensing fees

Vancouver’s Standing Committee on Policy and Strategic Priorities unanimously voted to approve a motion today that directs city staff to reduce the city’s $33,958 cannabis retail licensing fee.

The motion points out that Vancouver’s municipal business license for cannabis retailers is $33,958 on top of provincial retail licence fees which includes a $7,500 application fee, a $1,500 first-year license fee, a $1,500 annual renewal fee, and a non refundable security screening renewal fee. 

After months of speaking with cannabis retail owners and advocates in the industry, as well as our city staff, it’s clear to me that the extremely high license fee is a significant barrier to legal cannabis retail.

COUNCILLOR REBECCA BLIGH, CITY OF VANCOUVER

In comparison, the liquor retail store fee in Vancouver is only $429.00 and the maximum fee for a standard hours liquor establishment is $3,219. The next highest retail dealer fee is $4,595 for a 50,000 sq ft premises; a Class-2 Casino license fee and the license fee for a Horse Racing Exhibition are both $13,464; the Pacific National Exhibition annual license fee is $18,856; and the maximum fee for an extended hours liquor establishment is $23,525.

Councillors also voted to include two amendments to the motion. The first called on Vancouver’s mayor to advocate to the province to ensure the provnical share of federal taxes is distributed among BC’s municipalities. The second removed a clause in the original motion that sought to no longer require a certain kind of background check as currently required by the province. 

All councillors voted in support of the first amendment, with Councillor Bligh being the only nay vote on the second. The councillor pointed out the background check, the Worker Qualification Regulation is an additional layer of background checks on top of others that are similar with other industries. In approving the amendment, other councillors said they felt the extra background check was reasonable given the new nature of the industry. 

Several Vancouver cannabis retailers spoke to council in support of the amendment, explaining how difficult the fee makes it for them to survive as a business. One business owner said the municipal fees constituted 35% of his business’ annual gross profit. Several retailers also spoke out about the provincial requirement for shaded windows, with one even noting he and his staff had been held up at gunpoint, putting part of the blame on this requirement. 

City staff will now begin the task of drafting proposals for council to consider at a future date.  The motion recommends the changes take effect by the next renewal of the business license fee, or the end of this year.


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