Government cannabis stores considered in mid-size cities over larger metropolitan areas

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More than three months after cannabis became legal in Canada, there is still only one provincial government-run cannabis store in B.C. — in the Interior town of Kamloops.

However, applications from the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch, which runs these shops, are now before city councils in Courtenay, Williams Lake, Terrace, Prince George and Nanaimo. There is also an application for another store in Kamloops.

Vivana Zanocco, communications manager with the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch, said they've chosen the above communities because they believe the B.C. Cannabis Stores would be welcomed by residents.

"We're in it for the long haul," she told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk. "We certainly don't want to go where we're not wanted."

Zanocco said some people have been critical that there are no plans for a Vancouver shop, but because the city has so many established private vendors — several licensed, private stores have been approved throughout the province, including three stores in Vancouver — it isn't a priority.

Part of the reason Kamloops was chosen as the home of the province's first, and currently only, government cannabis store is because it already had the zoning in place for such stores.

"We're just going forward and saying, you know, this is the kind of area that we thought we would establish ourselves, according to our experience, in Kamloops," Zanocco said.

It takes months to open government cannabis stores

At this point, it could be months, or even a year before a B.C. Cannabis Store opens in one of the branch's identified communities. 

Once a community is identified as an appropriate place for a shop, the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch applies to local government for rezoning to open a retail store, following local city council procedures, until the shop is either approved or rejected.

According to Zanocco, the process can take anywhere from eight to 12 months.

"The authority and the power is in the hands of your community leaders," she added.

The inside of the B.C. Cannabis Store in Kamloops hours before opening on Oct. 17, 2018. (Briar Stewart/CBC)

Once the branch gets approval, she said it takes at least another seven months for construction.

For those eager to work for a B.C. Cannabis Store, Zanocco said jobs will be posted four to five months prior to opening. Though they are hoping for people with product knowledge, she said customer service is also key for these positions. 

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