Metro Vancouver has approved a cannabis retail outlet just outside the UBC campus following a decision that raised unusual circumstances for local governance of the University Endowment Lands (UEL).
On June 24, a majority of Metro Vancouver regional government board directors favoured recommending to the BC Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch a retail cannabis licence for Burb Cannabis Corp. at 5784 University Boulevard, a mini-mall at the foot of campus.
The proposed shop was overwhelmingly opposed by local residents, according to Jen McCutcheon, the elected director of “Electoral Area A,” which comprises the UEL and sparsely populated North Shore Mountains.
Local UEL parents and residents opposed the shop on grounds cannabis is harmful for health; some suggested in correspondence to the board such shops attract crime. David Eby, MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey, also opposed it based on feedback he received.
The university’s student union, the AMS Student Society of UBC Vancouver, favoured the proposal, citing the need for access to a safe supply of cannabis as no store is permitted on the actual campus grounds, per university policy.
The board’s approval was the final political hurdle for Burb, whose application now rests in the permits and licensing process at the provincial government level.
McCutcheon is the only elected member of the electoral area and sits on the Metro board; the board is made up of council members from the region’s separate municipalities. Decisions on land use do not work the same as a municipality. In this case, an Electoral Area A committee (with McCutcheon being just one of 10 Metro board members) recommended the proposal June 9 to the broader board.
McCutcheon said the decision by board members to approve the shop is an example of “routine disenfranchisement” for UEL residents.
She said safe supply concerns were overstated as there is a cannabis shop in a nearby neigbourhood.
“I’d like you to think about how you would feel if people from Lions Bay to Langley and everywhere in between were to come in and tell you, ‘Well, actually, you don’t really know your community. We’re going to say there should be’…whatever it is you think is best for your community,” said McCutcheon.
“It’s not about cannabis. It’s about governance,” added McCutcheon.
Vancouver councillor Colleen Hardwick took McCutcheon’s position.
“I think it’s been aptly pointed out the governance in the UEL is inadequate,” said Hardwick.
Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West said the company had a good business record in Port Coquitlam. He said opposition is based on moral opinions and not legalities, which steered his decision to approve the recommendation along with the likes of Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, who, in 2017, voted to ban such stores in his own municipality.
Metro staff had previously told the board the proposal aligned with approved zoning and re-zoning bylaws of the University Endowment Lands, which is overseen by the B.C. Ministry of Municipal Affairs.