Three people spoke to a packed council chamber on Feb. 12, opposing the city’s zoning amendment to limit cannabis retail sales to Whitehorse’s Marwell district.
Jordi Mikeli-Jones and Jeremy Jones, co-owners of Triple J’s Music, Tattoos & Piercing, detailed their plans to open a private retail dispensary downtown.
They said they’d been researching and putting together a business plan since 2015.
They were told by city staff that the zoning amendment was with respect to the first phase of cannabis retail rollout, wherein only government is allowed to sell cannabis. They were told no consideration was being given to second phase implementation until there was more direction from the Yukon government.
“We respectfully submit that city council should not prevent consideration on second phase implementation simply because Yukon government has not given a definitive time for licensing a private retail. Yukon government has, in fact, released the criteria for licensing and therefore the city should commence immediate planning for zoning of second phase implementation,” said Mikeli-Jones.
“While we are proponents for Yukon government having their warehouse and retail operations located in Marwell, we wholeheartedly disagree with restrictions on private retail in the same area.”
Mikeli-Jones wondered why anyone would want to walk to Marwell, which she said has been described as “dark, ugly and depressing” when they can have cannabis delivered to their door by dealers, or through online retailers.
She said those who use cannabis for medicinal purposes may have compromised mobility. A trip to Marwell isn’t barrier-free, she said, noting everyone should be able to safely access a retail location.
In addition to being inconvenient, she said locating in Marwell will only serve to further stigmatize those who use cannabis.
She pointed to Saskatoon mayor Charlie Clark, who has gone on the record saying he doesn’t expect cannabis retailers to be restricted to industrial areas.
Linda Peters, who has been in the neighbourhood since the 90s, also spoke.
She said she worries the goal is to push all cannabis retail to Marwell.
“I have seen a huge expansive ignorance of Marwell in all of this,” she said.
She said it’s a good area that does well with the mix of business and residential that it has, but she said it’s not suited to cannabis retail sales. Peters said Marwell is quiet on weekends and after regular 6 p.m. through the week. She said a retail location open until 9:30 p.m., seven days a week, wouldn’t fit in.
She also wondered how anyone could be expected to rely on the bus for transit to the retail location when bus service in the neighbourhood is so infrequent.
“It is not downtown. It doesn’t have the amenities. It’s not approachable,” she said.
She said Marwell has made businesses like Raven Recycling more accessible, but said that doesn’t mean it’s accessible in the everyday sense of the word.
Peters also said it feels rushed, and that there’s been no consultation with the people who live and operate businesses in the neighbourhood.
“I think cart before the horse, everybody’s in a big hurry. Just to listen to the planning that the Joneses have gone through (for their business) would sort of make this look very, almost negligent, is what I would say. They’ve really done their homework. There’s no homework here.”
Coun. Rob Fendrick called Peters’ arguments “very persuasive.”
Council was also presented with three written submissions, all of which Valerie Braga, director of corporate services, said “expressed concerns.”
A report will come forward at the standing committee meeting on Feb. 19.
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