Surrey will soon start accepting applications for cannabis stores

Council in Surrey, B.C., has voted in favour of a proposed policy framework around allowing cannabis retail shops to operate within city limits.

Despite the sale and consumption of recreational cannabis being legal in Canada and there being stores in many municipalities across the province, Surrey — the province’s fastest growing city and second largest by population — has remained a significant outlier.

The proposed framework allowing two cannabis stores each in the neighbourhoods of Whalley/City Centre, Guildford, Fleetwood, Newton, South Surrey and Cloverdale was passed unanimously by council on Monday night.

City staff said they plan to begin accepting applications within the next few months.

Concerns over flooding the market

In January, the city launched a survey to gather feedback on the framework.

More than 4,100 surveys were completed, with around 70 per cent of respondents supporting the proposal of 12 or more stores city-wide.

“Additionally, 51 per cent of respondents reported they would be likely to visit future cannabis retail stores in Surrey,” said the report.

During Monday’s council meeting, Coun. Linda Annis asked whether there would be flexibility to increase the number of permitted stores in a neighbourhood as Surrey’s population grows.

Don Luymes, the city’s general manager of planning and development, said it’s too early to cross that bridge — but if there’s demonstrated demand and council were in support, city staff would consider increasing the amount of storefronts.

“We are conscious about not flooding the market too quickly,” said Luymes.

“There’s lots of ways in which people are able to access this product, including online delivery. So, there is some balance in making sure that access perhaps is available but that those who are in business are able to be successful.”

A photo of Surrey's city hall at dusk.
City staff say they will begin acceping application in the next few months. (City of Surrey)

Location of stores

Under the framework, cannabis retail stores must set up shop at least 200 metres from schools, community centres, recreation centres and existing cannabis retail or production locations.

Coun. Mandeep Nagra requested that places of worship be added to the list.

Luymes said places or worship hadn’t been considered because they are hard to define, adding that they operate not just in buildings like temples and churches, but also in leased facilities and private.

“The staff proposal really kind of focuses on areas where youth and children would be expected to be congregating without direct parental or adult supervision,” he said.

Nagra said he would have a difficult time voting to approve a shop that is near a gurdwara. He offered a word of caution to applicants to choose locations that aren’t near places of worship.

There have long been calls for Surrey to allow cannabis retail shops to operate in the city.

Some cannabis retail advocates warn the lack of access is driving consumers elsewhere, including the black market. 

The province says a study from 2021 found consumers in the Fraser South Health Service Delivery Area, which includes Surrey, were less likely to buy cannabis from legal sources compared to consumers in other regions of B.C.


Posted in CBC