City council has voted in favour of possibly lowering the business license fee for cannabis retail outlets in Williams Lake after receiving a request from a local business owner.
During a special council meeting Tuesday, Nov. 16, city council tasked staff with preparing an amendment to reduce the $2,500 business license fee that cannabis outlets pay, but to also to check with the RCMP to see if police have had to attend cannabis retail outlets.
“The decision was made when the licensing came up and we put this in place because we had no idea what it was going to entail,” Mayor Walt Cobb said of why the city chose that $2,500 amount when liquor outlets pay $324.
“The indications are that the cannabis creates no more issues than any liquor outlet in town.”
Cobb said staff has already been working on redoing the business license bylaw overall, but it takes time and there is a process staff and council have to go through to change it.
“We don’t have time because of the advertising and everything that has to be done prior to when the new licenses come out in January,” he said. “There is the ability if council wishes to make an amendment to the bylaw in time before the new year.”
There are presently four cannabis retail businesses in the city that pay the business license fee of $2,500.
A business owner in Williams Lake is asking the city to reduce the business license fee it charges to his cannabis retail outlet.
Roy Buxbaum and his wife Evelyn own Daily Stash Cannabis Ltd. at 250 Mackenzie Avenue South.
He said they are paying $2,500 a year for the fee while liquor retail establishments in the city are paying as little as $324.
On the city’s website information about business licenses shows they range from $50 to $1,000, depending on classification.
“We have paid that rate since the start when we opened in February 2019 and it doesn’t seem fair to me,” Buxbaum told the Tribune. “We were told it had to be that high for policing costs, but we have had no incidents since we opened, other than a break and enter where the police had to attend.”
Buxbaum has put his concerns in writing and his letter will be discussed at a special council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 16.
“We are writing today to request that our annual municipal business license fee be brought into line to match our municipal liquor retail establishments,” the letter states, noting cannabis and liquor are both regulated and distributed by the same government body known as the LCRB or Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Board.
“Both cannabis and liquor need to be purchased through the same government wholesaler and for the most part, the rules and regulations are similar in nature.”
The city’s business licenses are renewed each year.