Nelson’s cannabis retailers are calling on the city to lower the “unnecessary and punitive” fees they pay to operate.
Under the current retail licencing bylaw, the city’s four cannabis stores pay $2,500 a year while a similar sized business in Nelson pays $135.
Jim Leslie, executive director of the Kootenays Cannabis Tree and spokesman for the local retail sector, believes the fee was set high by the city with the expectation there would be added costs to oversee the stores.
“To date, there’s been no negative impact to the city. My understanding is that the Nelson police have had no uptick in problems or crime or issues in regards to our presence. So, the request that we have is to be treated like any other business of the size and retail nature and to just have a much more reasonable business licence fee,” Leslie told Vista Radio.
Nelson Chief Constable Donovan Fisher agrees there hasn’t been any real problems with the sector. “Yeah, I would say there hasn’t been any significant uptick or problems with those businesses that’s come to my attention or we’ve had to put special resources towards,” Fisher said.
During the medical cannabis era, the fee was $5,000 a year but was lowered to $2,500 a year shortly after federal legalization of marijuana in 2018.
Leslie says the fee reduction request is not about profitability but fairness. “As we’re coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and all of the incredible stress that small business has had to deal with, the fact that we’re still here and still operating I think is a testament to our local support,” he said.
Leslie believes there’s still a stigma attached to cannabis but it’s their duty as Nelson’s retail cannabis industry “to fight back against the stigma with education and scientific information within the regulations where we can show people that the stigma that they may feel or see out there is not necessary and is going away. It will be in the rear view mirror shortly I think.”
The city started reviewing the licence fees last month but has not made any decisions.
Leslie says they are “very grateful” that Mayor John Dooley responded to their letter and brought the matter forward and that the city and council are looking into it.