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UBC pot shop bad fit with students and foreign buyers, say residents

Students backed the proposed cannabis store that would be located at the University Village mini-mall
university village
University Village mall at the campus border of the University of B.C.

A proposed cannabis shop just beyond the gates of the University of British Columbia has the support of the student union but not area residents who cite, among myriad reasons, incompatibility with foreign home buyers and international students.

The Metro Vancouver regional government’s board of directors will meet June 24 to decide the fate of an application by Burb Cannabis Corporation, on behalf of Mandial Holdings Ltd., to set up a retail non-medical cannabis shop at the University Village mini-mall on University Boulevard, just beyond the campus border.

The Alma Matter Society of UBC wrote in favour of the store.

“It is important for our student community to have easy access to a safe and trusted cannabis supply, and Burb Cannabis employs a responsible retail model that will benefit our UBC community,” wrote Cole Evans AMS president, to Metro Vancouver.

However, the student union’s position is opposed by the vast majority of local residents, according to feedback submitted to Metro Vancouver, which oversees the University Endowment Lands (UEL) within Electoral District A.

Of the total 239 submissions from nearby residents and businesses, 22 (10%) were in favour or had no objection, while 217 (90%) were opposed to the proposed store.

Two competing Change.org petitions are also considered in a Metro Vancouver staff report: one with 2,029 signatures in favour and the other with 1,836 signatures opposed.

David Eby, MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey, also submitted his opposition to the store.

“I could summarize in two words the community reaction: extremely negative,” wrote Eby.

Among residents opposed to the store is Tali’ah Aquilini, who wrote as a licensed mental health professional that more cannabis access could harm children who live in the area.

“This area has many schools, university students, and community centres where we have many children and youth,” said Aquilini.

Aquilini, the former spouse of developer and Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini, also cited property values as a reason to reject the store.

“On top of this, having a cannabis store in the neighbourhood can attract a more undesirable crowd, and criminal element, and it affects the value of real estate in the area, especially foreign buyers who do not understand how we have legalized cannabis here,” said Aquilini.

Some residents stated there may be a “culture shock” for international students.

“UBC has a total of 66,512 students, among whom there are 18,283 international students (about 28%). Please bear in mind that the legalization of cannabis is still not the case in most of the countries,” stated a submission signed by several residents.

“UBC is a popular destination for international students and tourists. Diverse cultures and (beliefs) should be respected. Non-medical cannabis is illegal in most of countries around the world. In analogy, should there be a butcher’s shop next to a Buddhist temple?” asked resident Guangrui Xia.

When University Hill Secondary School Parent Advisory Council surveyed parents 114 of 116 said they were opposed to the store.

The University Endowment Lands Community Advisory Council noted the university itself has banned cannabis shops on campus and it was the office’s position “that licensing cannabis retail close to campus would be contrary to the public interest when UBC has made a decision not to entertain such applications.”

The proposed store is more than the 300-metre distance from a school established by the City of Vancouver.

One resident cited “deterioration of air quality on campus.”

The application is a unique one as it involves several government bodies. It has already been approved for permitting by the UEL, which is overseen by the B.C. Ministry of Municipal Affairs. But Metro Vancouver oversees Electoral District A, acting like a municipal government. In B.C., municipal governments must approve cannabis shops and then forward recommendations to the BC Liquor and Cannabis Control Branch.

In this case, if Metro Vancouver’s board rejects the application based on community feedback, the application dies. If it approves the application, licence approval still must come from the BC Liquor and Cannabis Control Branch and the applicant would continue the permitting process with the UEL administration office.

The application will first head to the Electoral Area A committee June 9 for a recommendation before proceeding to Metro Vancouver's board.

gwood@glaciermedia.ca

Editor's note: A quote previously attributed to UEL administration has been corrected.