Surrey releases proposal for up to 12 cannabis stores in BC’s second largest city

| David Brown

The city of Surrey, BC, which has banned cannabis stores since the beginning of legalization, is now proposing to allow up to 12 cannabis stores in the city.

The plan, detailed in a survey the city recently posted online, says if it moves forward, there would be a maximum of two in each of Surrey’s six communities.

The city has developed a draft framework to guide the location and selection criteria, and is asking residents to complete the survey to provide feedback on the draft framework.

Surrey is the second-largest municipality in British Columbia, after Vancouver, with a population of more than 560,000 people. Vancouver, which has more than 660,000 people, currently has 80 cannabis stores, according to the city’s document (83 listed as open or in the queue according to BC).

In 2023, Surrey City Council began exploring the possibility of allowing cannabis stores, directing city staff to develop a plan. In July of that year, council sent a plan back to city staff to be reworked to address some councillors’ concerns. 

The initial plan would have limited the number of store locations to one in each of Surrey’s six town centres (City Centre, Guildford, Fleetwood, Newton, Cloverdale, and Semiahmoo), with a preference for a city‐owned site in each Town Centre as the first location. 

Graphic via City of Surrey

Councill expressed concern at the proposed locations and the idea of the city being a landlord for a cannabis business. 

The new plan proposes a 200 m distance requirement from “sensitive uses and areas to limit exposure to children and youth,” as well as existing cannabis retail and production locations.

The city also says it has developed an application process for future cannabis retail store proposals. If applicants meet all pre-screening requirements, applications will then be reviewed and ranked based on the experience of the operator, a parking and access plan, visibility, lighting and crime prevention design, signage and building face design, and for Surrey-based businesses.

Deepak Anand, who lives in Surrey and is a principal at ASDA Consultancy Services, which works in the cannabis space, says the number of stores Surrey is proposing is not enough, given the city’s size. 

“While Surrey moving away from being a retail desert five years after legalization is certainly progress, the ratio of one store for 47,000 people is, frankly, ridiculous. Surrey easily has the capacity and demand for over 80 stores based on its population and in comparison to other municipalities of its size.”

The Surrey Board of Trade released a statement today saying they applaud the new proposal, and hope it is implemented this spring.

“As the City invites public input through the Retail Cannabis Framework Survey, the Surrey Board of Trade supports a framework that is developed collaboratively with the cannabis industry and the public,” said Anita Huberman, President & CEO, Surrey Board of Trade. “Surrey can implement a safe and efficient cannabis regulatory framework, including amendments to zoning bylaws, business licence bylaws, bylaw notice enforcement bylaws, and municipal ticket information bylaws.”

The Surrey Board of Trade released a report last year calling on the local government to begin allowing cannabis retailers to operate in the municipality. Jasroop Gosal, Policy & Research Manager for the Surrey Board of Trade, said the board had concerns with how long the proposed plan will take to implement, while other cities in BC and across Canada have already moved forward.

Surrey City Staff held a workshop in 2023 with cannabis retail industry members to gain insights and feedback on a revised cannabis retail policy and application process.