Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Starbuds first to submit cannabis retailer application to Revelstoke council

Starbuds is the first proposed cannabis retailer to get their application before Revelstoke City Council, who will consider the application for the retail location at 109 Connaught Avenue at their Dec. 11 meeting.

Photo: Wesley Gibbs

Cannabis retail chain Starbuds is the first to get their application for a retail cannabis location before Revelstoke city council for consideration.

The proposed new location is an old wooden retail building located at 109 Connaught Avenue, between First Street West and Victoria Road, next to the Travel Escapes travel agency. The proposed hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

A staff report for Revelstoke city council recommends council supports the application. Ultimately, the regulator for cannabis retail is the provincial Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB). However, under the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act, provincial laws prevent the LCRB from issuing a license without a “positive recommendation” from the city. As a result, city council approval is a requirement, but the applicant must still fulfill additional requirements from the LCRB.

The building to the right at 107 Connaught Avenue in Revelstoke is the proposed location for a Starbuds cannabis retail location. Image: Google Maps

Starbuds is a U.S.-based company which started out with a number of locations in Colorado. In early 2018, Starbuds announced a Canadian (ahem) joint venture with Compass Cannabis, which lists itself as a cannabis consultation company that operated eight retail locations in B.C. and Alberta as of January, 2018. Starbuds founder Brian Ruden is profiled in this 2014 MSNBC report. The president of Compass Cannabis is listed as Dave Martyn, doing business out of 1650 Pandosy Street in Kelowna. In this profile from September in New Cannabis Ventures, Martyn outlines his ambition to open 200 cannabis retail locations in Canada in the next three years.

Retailers operating under the Starbuds name previously had grey-market locations in B.C., including one in Salmon Arm, and two locations in Vernon, prior to recreational cannabis legalization on Oct. 17. In a communication with the Mountaineer, Martyn said those retailers were not associated with Starbuds, and that Starbuds Canada has issued a cease and desist notices to the operators of the former locations.

After legalization, authorities moved to shut down the vast majority of illegally operating retailers. Many of those retailers are now submitting provincial applications to re-open their retail locations. Starbuds’ website lists a number of proposed locations: 17 locations in Alberta, six in B.C., and one in Saskatchewan. The Starbuds website lists the development stage for each location, including ‘coming soon,’ ‘development permits,’ and ‘under construction.’ Currently, none are listed as open in any province.

The licensee listed on the application is Colin Murray, given address of 26 Heart Road, Lac Des Arcs, Alberta. Starbuds operates on a franchise model.

A City of Revelstoke infographic that outlines the flow of recreational cannabis retail licence applications for Revelstoke. Image: City of Revelstoke

Revelstoke resident Natale Stagliano is listed on the application as the owner of the building at 109 Connaught Avenue.

The City of Revelstoke mailed out notifications to neighbouring properties, and has received three letters opposing the cannabis retail location so far. Sharon Shook, a resident of 304 First Street West, opposed the location. In a letter to the city included in the application package, Shook questioned allowing cannabis retail in general: “We were brave and smart when it came to public smoking. How brave are we going to be now? How many deaths and injuries will result from this folly?”

In a one-line email, Annie Deng from Hong Kong Restaurant expressed her opposition.

A letter from Kurtis Koehler and Michelle Berube of Revelstoke Glass & Vape Shop, which opened at 204 First Street West in November, also opposes the location. The Revelsmoke location is within 100 metres of the proposed Starbuds shop. The City of Revelstoke’s cannabis retail bylaw, which was adopted on the eve of cannabis legalization in October, requires that cannabis retail locations in the downtown area be more than 100 metres apart from each other. In their letter, the Revelsmoke owners say their intent was to expand their bong and vape retail location “into the cannabis market.” They say they have submitted a cannabis retail application to the LCRB, argue that their location is superior, and request that the city delays the Starbuds application, “until the time when our application is sent into the city for review against its proposed location.”

The 100-metre exclusion zone establishes a first-come, first-served system; once a retail location is approved, any retail property within 100 metres from the closest edge of the existing property cannot be operated as a cannabis retailer.

A Ministry of the Attorney General of B.C. oversees the LCRB. Liam Butler, a ministry public affairs officer, said that the LCRB is not providing timelines on the approval process once a positive recommendation is received from a local government. “There is no timeline on how long that takes,” Butler said. “It’s kind of up in the air.”

Currently, three private and one government cannabis retailer have been approved by provincial authorities. The ministry does provide stats by region on how many applications are in the early stages with provincial authorities, but it does not break down the stats according to municipalities. In the ‘Interior and the North’ region, 136 applications have been filed and paid, but 55 of those are listed as ‘incomplete.’ A total of 77 applications have been referred to local governments or Indigenous Nations.

If a local government supports an application, the application then proceeds back to the LCRB for further steps in the approval, which include security screenings, background checks, and facility inspection.

Revelstoke city council will consider the application at their Dec. 11 meeting. Council meetings start at 3 p.m. in Council Chambers and are open to the public.

Correction: A previous version of the story alternately listed the proposed cannabis retail location as 107 and 109 Connaught Avenue. In fact, the address is 109 Connaught Avenue.