From left - Mikel Abbot, Alfred Schaefer and Peter Greene at the opening of their first Rural Leaf cannabis shop in Smithers in October, 2019. (File photo)

Rural Leaf Cannabis wants to set up shop in Fort St James

Public hearing set for Tuesday, May 4

Fort St James could be getting its first non-medical cannabis retail store as Rural Leaf Cannabis eyes its fourth location in northern B.C.

The Smithers-based company has applied for a proposed storefront at Unit 2, 470 Stuart Drive West beside Overwaitea Foods.

Rural Leaf Cannabis president Alfred Schaefer said every community has its “own concerns” with the idea of a legal weed store coming into their town.

“It’s a pretty new industry, so there’s some stigma around it, I would say, but I also think a lot of the concerns have been addressed now that people have seen what legal stores look like and what the effect is on their community.”

Residents are invited to share their views with Mayor and Council at a virtual public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, May 4 at 5 p.m.

Read More: Check out Canadian Evergreen, a new cannabis publication for adults

Fort St James zoning bylaw stipulates a maximum of two cannabis retail stores are permitted in the commercial core zone, only on lots 140 through to 550 Stuart Drive West. Meanwhile, cannabis production facilities are allowed on industrial services and industrial heavy zones, only on lots 7400 through to 7600 of Highway 27 North, Tachie Road and Takla Road.

“It’s a legal product, and it’s available in other surrounding communities,” Mayor Bob Motion said.

“We’re struggling economically in Fort St James as it is, and I will encourage any legal business to set up in our community.”

Rural Leaf opened its first retail store in October 2019 at Smithers, followed by a second store in Houston. Their third store is set to soon open in Valemount.

Read More: B.C. unveils new cannabis sales programs to help small, Indigenous growers

Before venturing into the non-medical cannabis industry, Schaefer worked for Central Mountain Air in Smithers while his business partners Peter Greene and Mikel Abbot both worked for the former Kesmess Mine near Thutade Lake in the Omineca Mountains.

If mayor and council provide their support to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch in respect to the application by Rural Leaf Cannabis following the public hearing, Schaefer estimates it could take anywhere between three to four months before the non-medical retail store opens.

“I’m looking forward to going in front of Fort St James mayor and council and getting to know the community a bit better,” Schaefer said.

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