Burb Cannabis opens on campus after contentious application

Nearly six years after legalization and three years of planning, a cannabis dispensary opened on the University Endowment Lands (UEL) in late February.

Burb — short for “burn herb,” according to general manager Peter Pittson — is a chain of cannabis dispensaries in the Lower Mainland. The UBC store is Burb’s eighth location, the most any cannabis retailer can have under provincial law.

In May 2021, Burb Cannabis Corporation applied to the University Endowment Lands (UEL) to amend the UEL Land Use, Building and Community Administration Bylaw to allow for the conditional use of a recreational cannabis retail store at 5784 University Boulevard.

Despite opposition from UEL residents, including Electoral Area A Director Jen McCutcheon and West Point Grey MLA and Premier David Eby, the Metro Vancouver Electoral Area Committee recommended the approval of the Burb application to the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board in 2022.

Pittson said Burb had a queue around the block on its opening day.

“It's been a long journey to get this store open, but excited to be here now,” said Pittson.

The AMS and other community members supported Burb’s 2021 application, pointing to the need for a safe supply of cannabis near campus. At the time, the closest cannabis store was a 10-minute bus ride away in West Point Grey.

A petition by UEL resident Connie Chen said dispensaries are inappropriate for UBC’s academic environment.

“By allowing cannabis retail to exist in this business plaza, we are putting vulnerable children at a high risk of exposure to substances they are too young for,” wrote Chen.

Pittson said Burb follows Health Canada guidelines which includes product standards and age verification.

“People are gonna get the weed anyway, so why wouldn't they want it to come from a safe, regulated place?” said Pittson.

McCutcheon — who did not respond to a request for comment by press time — wrote about Burb’s opening in her March 8 newsletter, saying Burb said this location is “the world’s first cannabis store on a university campus” but that “the store is on UEL land, not on UBC campus. UBC does not permit cannabis stores on campus.”

According to UBC’s Office of the University Counsel, cannabis sale on campus is prohibited unless it’s authorized under federal and provincial law and, for retail outlets, with a license issued by UBC Campus + Community Planning.

Pittson said Burb is looking to engage with the student community, especially since there is misinformation about cannabis use.

“This is an amazing location to be able to educate people about cannabis,” said Pittson. “There’s a lot of people that love to learn around here.”

“If anyone wants to come by, chat to our team. We’re very knowledgeable and happy to share our experiences.”