Surrey Board of Trade says its time for cannabis stores in the city

| Staff

The Surrey Board of Trade released a report today calling on the local government to begin allowing cannabis retailers to operate in the municipality. 

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke says the city is working on developing a plan to potentially allow just that. 

The trade association, which says it represents over 6,000 member contacts and 60,000 employees, also calls on several policy changes from the provincial and federal government, from province-wide zoning rules for cannabis retailers that would prevent cities like Surrey from directly or indirectly banning them, to changes to federal excise duty rates and practices. 

“There is an opportunity for Surrey to create a structured, strategic, and responsible policy to allow cannabis operators to exist in Surrey,” said Anita Huberman, President & CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade. 

“This includes implementing an efficient cannabis regulatory framework, including amendments to zoning bylaws, business licence bylaws, bylaw notice enforcement bylaws, and municipal ticket information bylaws. This type of framework will provide regulations on the locations and operations of cannabis production and processing facilities and retail stores for Surrey.”

The report suggests that the BC government should create province-wide allowable zoning rules for cannabis retail for communities that have no retail cannabis policies in place, and also require communities that do have retail cannabis rules to permit private cannabis retail if it’s disallowed. It also calls for an end to the cap on the number of cannabis retail locations by one owner, currently limited to eight in BC.

Federal regulations and taxation, law enforcement 

The report also calls on the federal government to better align the needs of the industry with the policy goals of legalization, highlighting challenges with federal excise taxes, vape taxes, and more. 

It calls for an end to provincial and federal sales tax on medical cannabis and the creation of a single federal excise stamp for non-medical cannabis. It also calls for an end to BC’s 20% vape tax.

Lastly, the report from the Surrey Board of Trade also calls on the federal and provincial governments to address issues cannabis businesses face when dealing with lending institutions, and for law enforcement to address the ongoing activities of illicit cannabis operators. 

BC currently lists more than 460 private cannabis retail licences issued in the province. Surrey, which has not allowed cannabis retail locations, is the province’s second-largest municipality by population after Vancouver, covering a large portion of the Lower Mainland. Residents of Surrey who want to purchase legal cannabis either have to order from the online provincial store or purchase from retailers in nearby municipalities. 

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke—who, as a candidate for mayor, called for a “measured approach” to cannabis in the run-up to the 2022 mayoral election to address residents’ desire for legal cannabis stores—says she has now asked city staff to work on a report to develop a plan along those lines. 

“This new Council will consider allowing Cannabis stores in Surrey,” Locke told StratCan via email. “I have asked staff to work on a report to develop a measured approach for the potential introduction of retail cannabis locations in Surrey. Once completed, the report will be brought forth to Council for consideration.”

Richmond BC, located west of Surrey and home to more than 200,000 people, also does not allow any cannabis retailers.

A representative for Richmond told StratCann via email that they have not yet reviewed the proposal, nor will they provide comment on a report from another jurisdiction. 

“Cannabis regulations allow local governments to decide if they wish to permit the retail of cannabis within their boundaries. Richmond Council decided that a prohibition of retail is in the best interests of the community, especially when cannabis products are readily available across Metro Vancouver,” said Clay Adams, director of corporate communications and marketing for the City of Richmond. “Businesses are also permitted to deliver cannabis from Vancouver to properties in Richmond as long as that business is allowed to deliver and the courier/delivery company is licensed to operate in Richmond.”

Adams also pointed out that the City of Richmond has policies and zoning regulations in place that limit and regulate commercial cannabis production and cultivation activities licensed through Health Canada under the Cannabis Act and Regulations. The city only allows cannabis production facilities and related activities in designated “industrial” and/or “mixed employment” land use areas.

One other major municipality in Canada that has yet to allow cannabis retail stores is Mississauga in Ontario, with more than 800,000 residents. The city is also in discussions with its staff about the possibility of allowing retail stores at a future date.

BC’s recently released Budget 2023 includes approximately $21 million to support cannabis licensing operations, including the cannabis licensing system, streamlining service delivery, and strengthening compliance and enforcement.

Featured image of Inspired Cannabis, a retail store located just outside Surrey Municipal boundaries in Delta BC.