Pubdate: Fri, 09 Dec 2016
Source: Coast Reporter (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Coast Reporter
Author: Sean Eckford


Retail Marijuana

Michelle and Doug Sikora are a big step closer to having a storefront
location for their S&M Medicinal Sweet Shoppe, but it won't be in
Sechelt as they'd hoped. The couple have been issued a business
licence by the Town of Gibsons and plan to set up shop in the 700
block of Gibsons Way in early 2017.

S&M is the second marijuana dispensary to be granted a licence by the
Town in recent weeks. The Healing Hut, run by Brenda Haeber and Mike
Harris, opened on Marine Drive last month.

Mayor Wayne Rowe is careful to point out the licences are for retail
stores, not for marijuana dispensaries specifically.

"We don't really have the ability to licence for that specific
purpose, nor do we have the ability to shut it down if it's just a
retail store," he said. "At the present time we view it as a law
enforcement matter [if a retailer sells an illegal product]."

Rowe said he expects the federal government will introduce a
legalization scheme that leaves the details to provinces and
municipalities, and that's when Gibsons will likely create a business
licence category for cannabis sales.

The Sikoras say the Gibsons opportunity opened up through the
combination of a supportive landlord and Town officials willing to
issue a licence. It also came after three years of trying, and
failing, to get a licence from the District of Sechelt where they've
operated as a home-based business.

"We're federally registered, we're provincially registered. We've been
waiting for our local governments to recognize us," said Doug Sikora.

Michelle Sikora said she feels Sunshine Coast residents are ready to
support a locally based cannabis industry - both growing and retail -
within whatever regulations Ottawa comes up with. She's also confident
those regulations will include some sort of grandfathering, which is
one of the reasons they want to open a store. The Sikoras also said
despite the expected legalization of recreational use, S&M plans to
continue focusing on clients looking for medicinal cannabis.

Mike Harris of The Healing Hut said an interest in the potential
medicinal applications of cannabis made a dispensary a natural choice
when he and Haeber wanted to start their own business.

"I believe in it a lot," Harris said. "I believe it helps people's
personalities, I believe it helps people medically. It's a pretty
incredible plant."

Haeber and Harris looked at several communities, including more than a
dozen on Vancouver Island, but decided Gibsons was the best fit,
partly because of family connections and partly because the Town was
open to issuing a business licence.

"They're in the process of developing their bylaws to cater to
dispensaries, but they're not there yet. They take it on a
case-by-case basis," Haeber said. "We're hoping to roll with the
regulations as they come out, whatever they are."

The Sikoras, and Haeber and Harris, told Coast Reporter they feel
they've got a good working relationship with Town officials.

Doug Sikora said it's been a very different experience than trying to
get a Sechelt business licence. "We tried to do it in the most
respectful, community-minded way and we still got abuse and
harassment, we feel, by the RCMP and neighbours, but also by the
District [of Sechelt]."

Haeber said The Healing Hut is making an effort to stay low key, and
fit in with the feel of Gibsons Landing. "A big one was to keep the
neighbours happy, keep our local community happy."

Rowe said the Town has heard a few concerns since The Healing Hut
opened, the most serious being people smoking their purchases too
close to neighbouring businesses, but that concern was addressed quickly.

The dispensary hasn't had any direct contact with Sunshine Coast RCMP.
"They're keeping an eye on us," Haeber said. "We see them drive by and
look in, and we're fine with that. We expect that. But, because we
have a business licence, we are treated like a business and if there
are problems it will be the bylaw officer dealing with us."

The Sikoras, meanwhile, are still dealing with the legal fallout from
an RCMP raid on their home-based Selma Park dispensary in November
2015, but they said they don't expect it to interfere with their plans
for the shop in Gibsons. They have upcoming court dates on criminal
charges and their Charter challenge of the RCMP's actions.

The licensing of S&M Medicinal Sweet Shoppe and The Healing Hut brings
the total number of cannabis-related businesses in Gibsons to three.
The Rainforest Compassion Club was granted a Gibsons business licence
in early 2015.

Town CAO Emanuel Machado said, "We've been trying to find the right
balance between the current policy that we have, and working with
those folks, and trying to be firm where we need to be from an
enforcement perspective, but also recognize that [federal] policy is
changing much faster than we can adequately respond."
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