The applicant looking to open a Canna Cabana in Osoyoos is operating an unlicensed retail outlet south of Oliver.

Osoyoos Council took the first step Monday to welcoming a first retail cannabis outlet to the community.

But the application it is entertaining might be dead on arrival.

Council, at its regular afternoon meeting, gave two readings to a site-specific zoning bylaw amendment that would allow a retail cannabis outlet to be located at 8304 72 Avenue — the former site of Osoyoos Signs.

The outlet — identified as Canna Cabana — would have to pay an as of yet undetermined local business licensing fee and will be the subject of a public hearing December 3.

“We have not yet received a referral from the province so I anticipate the process will unfold all in good time,” Gina MacKay, the Town’s Director of Planning and Development Services told Council. “Right now, (the applicant) is just looking for the zoning change.”

The Town might be waiting a long time for that referral.

As Ms MacKay explained to Council, it is the provincial Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) that issues a private retail cannabis licence — although it won’t do so without first seeking local government approval, which is why it sends the referral.

The potential trouble for the application is the applicant’s continued operation of a medical marijuana outlet just south of Oliver.

Richard Stagg, who brought the request for the zoning change in Osoyoos, is a partner in a Canna Cabana located on Hwy. 97 next to C&C Food Mart. Since October 17, it has operated without a provincial license.

It’s unclear if Mr. Stagg’s ties to the shop in Oliver will affect the Osoyoos application, but previous comments from the province’s Solicitor General suggest it could.

In October, just before recreational cannabis use became legal across Canada, Mike Farnworth, BC’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, told reporters at the provincial legislature that cannabis dispensaries currently operating without a license in the province should close up shop if they hope to eventually become legal.

“A number of stores have indicated that they want to become legal and many of them I know are taking steps to ensure that they have that ability by applying and by recognizing that it’s probably in their interest to shut down their operations,” he said.

“My advice to them is that there are new rules coming in place on Oct. 17 and they should start to abide by those rules.”

The province has indicated applications must undergo an extensive background check, meaning Mr. Stagg’s affiliation with the Oliver Canna Cabana will likely surface.

An employee at the Oliver location said the store would be closing down “once the store’s inventory is gone.”

At the December 3 public hearing, Council will be looking for public input on the proposed retail site, allowing residents to address the outlet’s proximity to schools and parks and the outlet’s potential impact on existing adjacent businesses and other properties, parking and access.

The hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m. in Council chambers.

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