An application to open a cannabis store down the road from Langley Christrian School (LCS) in Murrayville has been rejected by Langley Township council, which also approved amending policy to limit the number of such stores allowed in the future, to one each in specific neighbourhoods.
“This is Cannabis,” which has stores in Abbbotsford and Chilliwack, wanted to open one near 48th Avenue and Fraser Highway, which would put it just over 200 metres away from LCS, the minimum required distance allowed next to a school under the Township Cannabis Retail Sales policy,
That was still too close for the school, which has 1,400 K-12 students.
In a letter to council to express the opposition of the school board of directors, Adam Woelders, LCS head of schools, said the proposed location was on a route used by approximately 200 to 300 students a day.
“We understand that cannabis products and their use is regulated and legal in the province of B.C., however we reject the proposal of a location so close to vital community services and businesses, and which would be placed in a location on a major artery of school foot traffic,” Woelders said.
“This proposal would place a highly visible and prominent retailer near Langley Christian Schools, the Langley School Board Office and businesses frequented by youth in our community including a dance studio and fast-food retailers,” Woelders added.
Woelders said the board would like to see the bylaw revised to keep retailers a greater distance from schools, saying there was “substantive evidence in local schools that many of the products confiscated from students originated from legal cannabis retailers.”
The letter landed prior to the Jan. 30 meeting of Township council to consider the application.
At the meeting, This is Cannabis founder Cody Les argued for approval of the application to open a store in Murrayville, “based on our conformance to the bylaws and associated buffer zones, our demonstrated efforts to alleviate all concerns identified during the application process and our track record of excellence in safe and responsible cannabis retail.”
Les promised security would be on-site daily during school hours.
This is Cannabis had also become a member of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce and was planning to move its headquarters to Langley, Les added.
In three years of operating stores, “we have never served a minor,” Les told council.
More than 225 letters of support were forwarded to Council, a “significant” portion from Murrayville residents, Les said.
“Access to legal products like these should not be unreasonably withheld,” he added.
A staff report on the proposal recommended approval, but a majority of council disagreed, with Mayor Eric Woodward and Councillors Tim Baillie, Steve Ferguson, Margaret Kunst, Barb Martens, Rob Rindt and Kim Richter voting it down.
Kunst said the issue was “where it is,” too close to the school.
It’s “location, location, location,” Baille said.
Richter said with three cannabis stores in the Township, “I don’t think we need another one.”
Councillors Misty Van Popta and Michael Pratt supported the proposal.
“I’m frustrated with societal hypocrisy that a plant that has been used for a millennium all over the world for pain control, sleep anxiety, and other medical conditions is somehow bad, yet we celebrate alcohol culture,” Van Popta declared.
“This is about facts, not fear,” Van Popta added, saying “more lives [are] destroyed by pharmaceuticals than cannabis.”
Pratt said “proximity is not what causes somebody to do something or want to do something,” and the proposal “meets all our policy requirements.”
Myor Woodward said “in this particular issue, both sides are right, but a decision has to get made.”
Woelders welcomed the decision to reject, saying LCS was “thankful that the councillors made the best decision in light of all the factors involved, and prioritizing kids and their schools.”
At the same council meeting, a majority voted to amend the Township policy by setting a limit of one cannabis store per neighbourhood in “each of the urban communities in Aldergrove, Brookswood-Fernridge, Carvolth within Willoughby, Murrayville and Willowbrook.”
Woodward said it would, “ironically” leave Murrayville, and Brookswood available for proposals.
Councillors Richter, Pratt and Kunst were opposed.
In his motion, Woodward noted the Township of Langley now has three open or approved cannabis retail operations in the urban communities of Aldergrove, Carvolth in Willoughby, and Willowbrook.
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