A Bowen Island pub owner has presented plans to the municipality to open the community’s first cannabis dispensary.
Located directly on the island’s artery, Bowen Island Trunk Road, a 250-square-foot unit sits freshly-painted buried behind caution cones and cinderblock. It doesn’t look like much now, but Glenn Cormier thinks his next investment could quickly become a town staple.
“As perceptions change and the stereotypes go away, I think a retail cannabis store is going to be viewed as an amenity,” says Cormier, who has owned and operated the island’s landmark watering hole for the last six years.
“I do believe it is something the community needs.”
With direct access to the docks, a popular bus route and a number of long-established businesses, Snug Cove is the landing point for the island’s economy and tourism. If Cormier's dispensary is approved and licensed, it will take one unit in a mid-sized complex, a recent addition to the area. The building will also house the new location for his pub, apartments allocated to staff housing, a clothing store, and an art gallery.
The key in this community, Cormier believes, is to tailor his brand to the island’s older population. With less than 300 residents between the ages of 25 and 34, the community is made up primarily of baby boomers. He intends to create a "professional and modern" facility to accommodate those who may be perturbed by a more youthful design.
“The growing market is going to come from CBD-based products. A lot of the tinctures, topicals and edibles, are going to appeal to a more mature crowd,” he says.
“You really have to put them at ease and give them the knowledge they need, and to educate them that cannabis itself has changed.”
Cormier, who has been in the hospitality industry since his teenage years, has an extensive knowledge of the complexities of liquor licensing and says it gives him an edge going into this next venture.
“I have a full understanding of what the application process will likely look like and I understand quite strongly about how that licence affects your ability to operate,” he says.
“The stipulations in regards to selling to minors and consuming before driving, those are the kind of things that we need to be at the forefront of.”
So far, Bowen Island Municipality (BIM) has only recieved one dispensary proposal. Making the presentation early, Cormier says, gives the community time to prepare, rather than trying to force it through once legalization happens.
While the council was receptive to the idea, the announcement coincides with the creation of a new zoning bylaw. Under legal advisement, BIM is preparing to enforce a cannabis blackout policy, of sorts, until they have a better understanding of the legal landscape.
“[The] bylaw prohibits cultivation, production and distribution of cannabis throughout the island,” says Bowen Island Mayor Murray Skeels.
“Anything to do with it is illegal, anywhere.”
Once Bill C-45, passes, the municipality will take spot-rezoning applications for cannabis-related purposes. The federal legislation survived a second reading in the Senate with a vote of 44-29 on Thursday.
“The whole idea is that we won’t have to make decisions right now in the dark,” says Skeels.
“By making it illegal completely, nobody gets grandfathered in.”
The first reading of the bylaw will take place Monday morning, and it could take up to three months to pass.
Skeels says there are too many unknown factors to grant approvals at this time, but is supportive of Cormier’s proposal.
“My personal opinion is that just as we would rather have a liquor store than a bootlegger, we would rather have a properly controlled retail [cannabis] location.”
Since word of Cormier's plans began to circulate the small community, he says response from other locals is that of excitement, and the naysayers, if any, are not coming forward. Skeels agrees.
“Most people appreciate that we’re talking about a mild intoxicant that has been around for many, many years,” he says.
“It is not the moral issue of our time.”