Five cannabis shops have been approved by the province, but one is still struggling with regulations

Four months after legalization, five Victoria shops have now passed provincial inspections, and while they await permission from the municipality to start their businesses, one shop is still jumping through hoops.

The Original Farm, located at 1402 Douglas Street, spent a million dollars in 2018 to renovate their store and increase their floor space.  While doing so, they also rezoned and registered the building as a heritage building, which is now causing problems.

The provincial and federal standard says frosted windows need to be in place, but Allan Lingwood, Chief Compliance Officer for The Original FARM, says the city has regulations for heritage buildings which is hindering their ability to move forward.

"That's now hurting us a little bit as heritage buildings cannot have frosted windows.  The city wants to maintain a beautiful street-scape, and those heritage buildings in downtown Victoria are well know to add value to the street-scape and the character of Victoria, so they do not want to hinder that character, and they do not want us, The Original Farm, to frost all those windows."

He adds that when cannabis dispensaries first cropped up in the city, there were bylaws saying frosted windows were needed, but that changed later and stores weren't required to have frosted glass.  Lingwood says he hopes the regulations change in the upcoming years, allowing municipalities to have more control on certain rules, including what a cannabis retailer's storefront should look like.

He says they will work with the city to make sure they can get up to code, adding that he doesn't believe this will hinder them from getting their license.

Three of the five shops are now undergoing public consultations before they can be approved by the municipality.  Clarity Cannabis at 851 Johnson Street and at 603 Gorge Road East, and Cloud Nine Collective at 778 Fort Street, are all awaiting approval from the city, who are still collecting public input.  The two Original Farms stores, the Douglas location as well as  at 3055 Scott Street, are waiting to go to the public consultation phase.

Meanwhile, many shops continue to operate illegally, selling product without even undergoing the inspection process.  Lingwood, says for a long time there was a "grey market" for cannabis, but after the legalization,  it's better to follow the regulations, than be operating outside the law.

" We really want to usher in the legal industry in a positive way, and we disagree with operating with non-compliant product when compliant product is available, and we are trying to support and encourage a healthy supply chain within a legal environment.  We feel the best way to do that is to get legal cannabis retailers distributing cannabis safely, responsibly, as soon as possible.  Closing down those black market dispensaries, that may have been operating in the grey market, I can't speak counter to the grey market, we were empowered by that market as well.  However, October 17th brought a very black-and-white world to Canada when it comes to cannabis, and we all need to comply with that, we need to be grateful to that, which we are, and we don't want to feel penalized following the law."

He adds that he feels like everyone is working to bring legal cannabis to the market, and hopes both branches of the Original Farm will get their licenses soon, saying in a perfect world they would be able to open the shop in four weeks.

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