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Large British Columbia city may allow legal cannabis stores in 2024

Another large Canadian city is proposing to remove its prohibition on legal cannabis stores.

Surrey, the second-largest municipality in British Columbia by population, is surveying residents and entrepreneurs over a draft proposal to allow up to 12 cannabis stores to open.

Proponents say the move would allow legal merchants to help displace the illicit market.

“Our members … are pleased to see the city of Surrey moving to close the access gap to legal cannabis in their community,” Jaclynn Pehota, executive director of the Licensed Retail Cannabis Council of BC (LRCCBC), told MJBizDaily.

Pehota said a lack of reasonable access to legal cannabis has propped up the unregulated market.

“We applaud mayor and (City) Council choosing to provide residents with the option to choose the legal market,” she said. “This is important progress in the project of eliminating illicit operators.”

Additionally, Pehota said the LRCCBC hopes Surrey leadership considers expanding the number of shops allowed in the community beyond the proposed 12 in the near future because “proximity and convenience are important to consumers when they are making buying decisions.”

The move comes almost a year after Mississauga – Ontario’s third-largest municipality – overturned its ban on legal marijuana stores last year.

Surrey’s draft framework comes with four location requirements, including allowing a maximum of two stores in each of its six communities, according to the survey.

The three other proposed requirements include:

  • Cannabis stores are permitted only in town centers and commercially designated areas within the municipality’s Official Community Plan.
  • Stores must be located in commercially zoned land that already allows retail stores.
  • A ban on stores within 200 meters of “sensitive uses and areas” to limit exposure to young people, such as public and private schools, parks and recreation centers.

The six communities are:

  • Cloverdale.
  • Fleetwood.
  • Guildford.
  • Newton.
  • South Surrey.
  • Whalley.

According to the survey, the city will use a selection process to score and select potential licensees.

The proposed selection and scoring criteria include:

  • Experience of the operator.
  • Parking and access plan.
  • Visibility, lighting and crime prevention design.
  • Signage and building-face design.
  • Whether the business is based in Surrey.

Separately, applicants would be required to obtain approval and licensing from the B.C. Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the provincial marijuana store regulator.

The 12 stores, if implemented as outlined in the survey, would give Surrey approximately one store per 47,000 residents, according to the city’s own estimate.

That would mean Surrey would have the lowest store-to-population ratio in the lower mainland.

Three ratios for the three other other jurisdictions are:

  • 1:6,500 in North Vancouver.
  • 1:3,200 in Victoria.
  • 1:8,200 in Vancouver.

After the city completes its community engagement on the framework, the proposed policy is expected to be brought to the City Council.

It is not known when a vote could take place, but the process has been slow.

In 2018, Surrey established restrictions to stop new stores from opening to allow time to assess how to proceed.

In 2023, the city developed a draft framework to permit the sale of cannabis in storefronts after consulting with the industry.

And almost one year ago, Mayor Brenda Locke said the city staff was working on a report for the Council’s consideration.

Local residents and prospective entrepreneurs have until Feb. 5, 2024, to complete the survey.

Surrey is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada, with an estimated population of 568,322 in 2021, according to Statistics Canada figures.

British Columbia had 493 cannabis stores marked as “open” as of last week.

Matt Lamers can be reached at

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