Pemberton, BC votes to lower some cannabis licensing fees

The Village of Pemberton, BC has voted to move forward with a proposal to lower their cannabis licensing fees for producers and retailers in the municipality. 

On Tuesday, the village’s Committee of the Whole discussed a staff report reviewing the licensing fee structure of micro and standard cannabis producers, as well as retailers.

The staff report proposed lowering the annual licence fee to match the standard licence fee for other businesses of $150, as well as adding a $1,000 application fee for production facilities and adding an additional cost recovery fee to the current $1,000 application fee for retailers. 

The current licensing fees with the Village of Pemberton, established in 2019, are $5,000 for cannabis production businesses, standard, $2,500 for Cannabis production business, micro, and $5,000 for Cannabis retail.

The Committee of the Whole voted to lower the standard licensing fees by 50% and revisit the cost again in a year. 

City staff noted that the initial costs for cannabis licensing were higher than for other businesses because of the new and unknown nature of the industry, taking measures to ensure these new licence categories didn’t end up costing the village money. 

The staff report says the Village of Pemberton has collected business licence fees from two cannabis retail stores and from four cannabis production facilities since the current fees were established in 2019, for a total of $27,500, and has recouped the initial costs incurred during establishment of the regulatory framework. 

Although the staff report also noted that no additional on-going costs have been identified for these business types since 2019, the Committee of the Whole stated they wanted to move forward with caution when lowering fees.

The 50% reduction suggested by the village will mean $2,500 for a standard cannabis production licence and retail licence and $1,750 for a micro. This is in addition to the added $1,000 fee for any production facility (micro or standard) and an additional cost covering fee for retail applications (to cover things like advertising for public consultation).

These fees will be effective beginning 2022, for both current license holders and new applicants.

I just don’t see why a restaurant or bar should pay $150 for their license and we pay $5,000. And I’ve still to this day not understood the justification for that. It seems very arbitrary. It’s been two years in a row we’ve been charged that now.

Andrew Ellot, Coast Mountain Cannabis, Pemberton

Andrew Ellot, co-founder of a cannabis production facility in Pemberton, Coast Mountain Cannabis, says he’s disappointed that the city voted to only cut the fees by half, and feels it’s effectively just applying a “cannabis tax” to anyone in the industry.

“Anything less than a complete, flat level playing field and everyone being on the same business licence, I still don’t think is justifiable,” says Ellot.

“I just don’t see why a restaurant or bar should pay $150 for their license and we pay $5,000,” he continues. “And I’ve still to this day not understood the justification for that. It seems very arbitrary. It’s been two years in a row we’ve been charged that now.”

Ellot notes that the city has never had to visit his facility in the two years he’s been licensed, nor has the police or fire department, so he questions what additional costs the city needs to cover. 

The two retailers operating in Pemberton, Hemp Phase Cannabis and the GP Cannabis store were unavailable for comment at press time. 

Pemberton’s staff report included information on other licensing fees in BC from several other municipalities. Vancouver was the highest at $33,958 for cannabis retail licenses, while most other surveyed city’s fell in a range of about $5,000 to $10,000. 

Pemberton’s $5,000 production licensing fee was the highest of the surveyed city’s, along with Maple Ridge and Abbotsford. 

The city of Vancouver recently voted to lower their own retail licensing fee, with a staff report on those new fees expected later this year.

Featured image via Google Maps


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