Vancouver councillor warns high licence fees may encourage illegal cannabis stores

Cannabis retailers in Vancouver pay the highest licensing fees in Canada


City councillor Rebecca Bligh has filed a motion seeking to slash fees on retailers. Photo by Kyrani Kanavaros. (Photo at right by Margarita-Young/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus.)


Earlier this year, CannCentral published a piece about what to expect from the cannabis industry in 2021.

One of the experts predicted a resurgence of unlicensed stores across Canada, especially in B.C. and Vancouver.

Rebecca Bligh was not among the sources polled by the site for the piece.

However, the Vancouver city councillor shares the same concern about the emergence of illegal cannabis retailers.

Specifically, Bligh fears that high licensing fees by the City of Vancouver may discourage people wanting to enter the legal market.

She said that this could lead to the proliferation of illegal weed shops.

“We want to make sure that we can enable as many legal cannabis retail locations as possible,” Bligh told CannCentral.

In a phone interview, the first-term council noted that fees being charged by the city are “way out of scale”.

To illustrate, Vancouver charges the highest business licence fees for cannabis retailers in Canada.

In 2020, the annual municipal licence fee amounted to $33,958.

Bligh has put forward a motion in council seeking to slash fees.

In her motion, the councillor noted that other Vancouver businesses pay substantially lower licensing costs.

For example, a liquor store pays $429 per year. A liquor-serving establishment gets an annual licence for $3,219.

In addition, prospective retailers also face provincial costs.

An application for a retail licence in B.C. comes with a fee of $7,500. The first-year licensing fee amounts to $1,500. The annual renewal fee totals costs $1,500.

Hence, for a legal retailer in Vancouver, annual city and provincial licensing fees alone total more than $35,000.

Council to hear motion to slash fees

Bligh noted that Vancouver currently has 37 licensed retailers.

Her motion states that the “extremely high size of the municipal business license fee for cannabis retailers acts as a significant barrier to entry for businesses”.

As a resut, this can “incentivize them into operating illicitly, requiring additional enforcement and compliance costs”.

Also, such a development will not only increase “risk to public safety”, but likewise undermine legal businesses.

Vancouver city council will hear speakers from the public about Bligh’s motion on February 18.

Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter at @carlitopablo

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