By Laura Keil

The Village of Valemount is holding a public hearing on a proposed cannabis retail outlet on 5th avenue, a proposal by Smithers-based company Rural Leaf Ltd. which currently runs two cannabis shops in northern B.C.

Village Planner Megan Vicente explained the public hearing is required by the Village’s cannabis zoning bylaw. The hearing results and Council’s recommendation will be sent to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch for their final say.

“Because it’s a provincial license, it’s not up to Council to give the ultimate approval,” Vincente said. “What the Province is seeking from Council is their recommendation.”

“You need the community support to proceed with the application.”

What is Rural Leaf?
Rural Leaf opened their first cannabis retail store in 2019 in Smithers. In November 2020 they opened a second store in Houston.

Co-owner Alfred Schaefer is confident Valemount can support a store.

“Valemount is a pretty popular place for people to come to and recreate so that is definitely worked into our calculations. All of us love skiing, and Peter is a pretty big snowmobiler. We’re confident that we’ll do fine there.”

Schaefer said his business partner Peter Greene owns a house in Valemount and they have often visited.

“We saw there was no store yet in valemount. It seems like a really cool town and it seems like the right size to have at least one store.”

The three owners—Alfred Schaefer, Peter Greene and Mikel Abbot—have chosen a location at 1201 5th ave, in the same building as Unique Boutique (the space formerly occupied by Robson Valley Internet). They’ve come up with the name Robson Valley Cannabis and they’ve already lined up a local manager. Schaefer hopes the community supports their application.

“We’re really excited to get to know the community and be part of the community,” he said.

If approvals go well, they plan to open by the summer, creating up to four new jobs.

“We’ll be looking for people who are into weed and then teaching and training them.”

They hope to create a friendly vibe where everyone from seasoned cannabis consumers to first-timers can feel comfortable.

Products will include oils, dry cannabis, vape pens, shatter, hash, extracts, pre-rolls, and edibles.

He said people are realizing the benefits of buying cannabis from a store: as prices have come down, he says it’s pretty competitive with the black market. It’s also opened up a differentiated product line, with variations of cannabis strains, something he compares to shopping for wine. It’s also safer than buying on the street.

“It’s nice to go in a place where you know exactly what you’re buying and it’s been tested and you know exactly what you’re buying.”

The Village of Valemount’s cannabis bylaw and policy was passed in 2019 and states that retail outlets cannot be located in close proximity of schools or daycares.

Vincente says the public hearing is not required by the Province, but it’s part of the Village’s bylaw.

“It gives both Council and the public an opportunity … to have their say and those comments would be provided to the Province together with Council’s recommendation,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s a permitted use in the zone, so there shouldn’t really be too much grey area.”

She said the creation of the cannabis bylaw already went through a public hearing that allowed residents to voice concerns and shape its content.

The public hearing will be livestreamed on the “Villa Valemount” (Villa not Village) YouTube Channel at 7pm Tues. Jan. 26th, 2021. Use this link to watch and participate (via the YouTube comment function) in the public hearing: