Cannabis store in Uni Village closer to fruition after Metro Vancouver Electoral Area Committee recommends license approval

Metro Vancouver’s Electoral Area Committee recommended to the Metro Vancouver Regional District (MVRD) Board this morning that an application for a University Village cannabis store goes through as approved.

After a year of debate and fierce opposition from many members of the University Endowment Lands (UEL) community, the committee’s recommendation makes it likely that a non-medical cannabis shop will open on 5784 University Blvd, just off of UBC campus.

More than a year ago, Burb Cannabis sought a green light to open this cannabis store. In April 2021, the BC Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) conducted a successful “fit and proper” assessment of Burb Cannabis. In April of this year, the former Minister of Municipal Affairs Josie Osborne supported a rezoning application from the UEL to potentially allow for a cannabis store on campus.

At today’s meeting, the committee was simply making a recommendation to the MVRD Board on the matter. The MVRD Board will make the final recommendation to the LCRB to approve or deny the application.

Burb Cannabis, the AMS and other community members spoke in favour of the application, pointing to the need for a safe supply of cannabis near campus. Currently, the closest cannabis store is a five-minute drive from campus in West Point Grey.

But several UEL community members spoke against the recommendation of license approval, specifically mentioning concerns around minors gaining access to cannabis and broader health risks.

Electoral Area A Director Jen McCutcheon and West Point Grey MLA David Eby both spoke against the application, pointing to overwhelming opposition from the UEL community.

Eby spoke of the opportunity cost of the store, referencing a lack of services on the Point Grey peninsula, although incorrectly stating that the area doesn’t have a bike repair shop.

Committee members generally didn’t buy the arguments against the store.

Vancouver representative Melissa De Genova agreed with the need for a safe supply to keep people away from black market cannabis, and Langley City representative Gayle Martin said the comments on minor safety don’t stand because of the strict regulations around cannabis stores in BC.

“I think Burb should be given the chance to prove they’ll be a good corporate citizen in the UEL,” Martin said.

While this indicates a cannabis store will likely pop up in University Village in the near future, governance questions remain.

Metro Vancouver acts as the local government for Electoral Area A, which includes UBC, the UEL, Barnston Island, Howe Sound and Indian Arm/Pitt Lake communities. The committee is chaired by McCutcheon, and includes representatives from Vancouver, Langley, Bowen Island, Surrey and more.

McCutcheon raised questions about proper governance and democratic decision-making when the people making a decision on a UEL cannabis shop aren’t elected by UEL community members.

“We’re bringing this to a group here at the Electoral Committee … who are from communities as far away as Lions Bay or Langley,” she said. “But none of whom, except for myself, are accountable to the people that actually live in this region.”