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Vancouver Rethinks High Licensing Fees

In Vancouver, licensed cannabis retailers are required to pay $34,000 every year just to keep their licenses. This fee is the highest licensing fee in the country, and according to Vancouver City Councillor Rebecca Bligh, it’s almost ten times what liquor stores pay to operate in the city.

City Council unanimously passed a motion on Thursday to rethink the exorbitant amount, and Bligh hopes the city can adopt a fee in the same ballpark of other municipalities in the province, preferably keeping it in the $1000 to $5000 range.

Bolster Legal Market

The inspiration to introduce the motion came from the desire to make the landscape more fair and equitable for licensed cannabis retailers. By lowering the cost of the licensing fees, it will be easier for small businesses to join the industry and bolster the legal market.

“Reducing this fee supports the regulated market and the small business owners that champion [the] local economy,” she said in a tweet on Thursday.

She believes that the high licensing fees, which were originally introduced in 2015 for medical cannabis stores, actually enforce the grey market in the city by making licensing unnecessarily expensive for small business owners.

Unnecessarily Expensive

To put things in perspective, it costs more to license a cannabis store than it does to license the Pacific National Exhibition, a 17-day annual summer fair over several buildings with over 500,000 attendants every year.

“The fees [in Vancouver] right now are in excess of $34,000. The next-highest fee to that would be the annual business license fee for the entire PNE operation at $18,000. And even the local horse track’s annual business license fee sits around $13,000,” Bligh told CityNews 1130 out of Vancouver. “As you can see, it’s $21,000 higher on an annual recurring basis than businesses that we would suspect ought to be far more complicated in how they function than one individual retail store with a handful of employees.”

City staff has until the end of 2021, just before licenses are set to be renewed, to come back with some recommendations.

Currently, Vancouver hosts 36 retail stores, with more on the way.