As I was going through July's development permits and rezonings in the Township of Langley, I couldn't help but notice there were not one, but two applications for retail cannabis operations presented to Mayor and Council. These applications comes on the heels of the Township of Langley recently allowing for one retail cannabis store in each community - Aldergrove, Brookswood/Fernridge, Fort Langley, Murrayville, Walnut Grove, Willoughby and the 200th Street Interchange area (see map below).
A Race to Apply
During the meeting, Townhip administrator Mark Bakken noted that there are something akin to 18 current applications filed. If the two being applied for in July were approved, they would be considered the preferred applications regardless of any other factors. This first-come first-serve policy would be interesting since there are 3 applications coming in the 200th Street interchange area, 3 in Fort Langley, 6 in Aldergrove and 3 more in Willowbrook (as of early July).
Mr. Bakken outlined two options for how council could go about making their selection, but I won't go into detail here about those - Council ended up delaying the decision so they could deliberate on whatever applications were in by September 1, 2020.
What I find interesting though is the sheer volume of applications. The current 18 applications are in 7 of the 8 community centers. with only Brookswood/Fernridge void of any current applications. Although the process is likely still to take a few months for their respective resolutions, it is very easy to foresee that we could have 7 retail cannabis stores in the Township of Langley by Summer 2021.
How Many Are Needed?
The purpose of me pointing this out is not to pass judgement on the pros and cons of medical or recreational marijuana use. Nor is it a commentary on the free market system or the policy that our Council have come up with. It's simply to point out the fact that if the Township of Langley does end up with 7... maybe 8 retail cannabis stores by next year, we could very well be considered the cannabis capital of the Fraser Valley.
I honestly haven't been following the politics of marijuana too much since the legalization of its recreational use by the federal governement in 2017. In the Township of Langley, I did follow a relatively low-key deliberation regarding whether cannabis production would take place in our vast, but under-utilized, agricultural space or in our limited, but probably more appropriate, industrial lands. I didn't pay much attention to how other municipalities were handling the retail operations.
It was only with mild interest following the July 27 council meeting that I decided to check out the government licensing section to see where we can get legal weed: https://justice.gov.bc.ca/cannabislicensing/map.
It's no surprise that Vancouver is the provincial leader with 32 legal pot shops. However, as we zoom into the Lower Mainland, we see that Chilliwack comes in 2nd place with 5 legal dispensaries. Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, and New Westminster each show 2 stores with White Rock and Maple Ridge each with 1 store. Communities like Burnaby, Surrey, Abbotsford, and of course, Langley, have 0.
So while it is likely only a matter of time before these stores become more prevalent, it has already been 3 years and it is surprising to see how slowly the municipalities have reacted. However, it is more surprising to me that the Township of Langley could very well be home to not only the most cannabis producers in the area, but also the most retail shops within the next year.
Fraser Valley Slow to Adopt
That outcome also depends on what's going on around us. I see many "alleged" pot shops in Surrey. By the end of 2018, Surrey had received 9 applications for legal storefronts, but Mayor MacCallum's office has been adamantly against their approval. Abbotsford has been known to crack down on the illegal stores operating within it's limits and are currently reviewing applications. However, Abbotsford's council choose to limit the number of stores to 4. Chilliwack's first legal storefront only opened up in November 2019, so we can see how quickly these stores can start popping up once there is a trailblazer. On the other hand, Maple Ridge still only has one, which opened over a year ago.
With Surrey's current administration seemingly deadset against legal cannabis stores and Abbotsford forcing a limit of half of the Township of Langley, it'll certainly be interesting to see how it all rolls out and how the residents of Langley react to potentially being the Cannabis Capital of the Fraser Valley and maybe even second only to Vancouver.
How Are British Columbian's Buying Cannabis?
Recent Polling (July 2020):
- 51% of polled British Columbians who have consumed cannabis in the past 6 months have purchased from a licensed retailer (up from 33% in October 2019)
- 20% of respondents said their cannabis was obtained legally "most" or "some" of the time
- 16% admitted to purchasing only through illegal dealers or unlicensed retailers
- Statistics Canada shows legal cannabis is $10 a gram, whereas illegal is close to $5 per gram
- 45% of responsdents said they have never tried cannabis
- 10% said they have only used after it became legal
- 26% don't agree it should be legal