Cannabis business licences could cost $20K, shops required to have air filtration systems

Cannabis business owners could be required to pay $20,000 for an initial licensing fee in Saskatoon and install air filtration systems to “minimize odour impacts” for neighbours, according to a new city report.

The city administration is recommending in a proposed approach for cannabis business licensing in Saskatoon that the bylaw include regulations for the look of storefronts, separation distances, licensing fees, air filtration systems, offences and penalties. The recommendations are contained in a report on its way to the standing policy committee on planning, development and community services.

If the committee passes the recommendations, they will go to city council for approval, then to the city solicitor, and will help shape the cannabis business bylaw, which will then be presented to council for a vote.

The report recommends that store signage for marijuana retailers not display any images that “would serve to promote” cannabis or cannabis-related items. It also recommends mandating signs indicating that only people over the age of 19 are allowed to enter the stores, and that the proposed bylaw require cannabis business owners to install air filtration systems.

It also recommends that cannabis-related businesses be at least 160 metres apart.

A $20,000 initial licensing fee is also recommended, with an annual renewal cost of $10,000. The report, drafted by a senior planner in community standards, notes that in other municipalities in North America, the fees can be as low as $191 or as high as $97,000.

The City of Saskatoon charges a typical business $125 for a licence, with an annual renewal fee of $85.

In its explanation for the proposed fee structure, the report notes that “significant staff resources” have been used to date in preparation for this “new industry” and once recreational marijuana is legalized, the city anticipates the use of staff resources will increase.

In a statement, community services department general manager Randy Grauer said the city has been working on this file for over a year and has not received any cost recovery so far.

“This business environment was thrust upon municipalities and the licence fees reflect our costs,” he said in the statement.

The report is a late addition to the agenda for the planning, development and community services committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday morning.

At the end of May, council sent back the proposed amendments to the zoning bylaw that would accommodate cannabis-related businesses. Council wanted staff to revise the prescribed separation distances between cannabis businesses and public facilities such as schools of 160 metres citywide and 60 metres in the Broadway Business Improvement District to 60 metres citywide in the final version of the bylaw.

At the beginning of the month, the province selected the recipients of the 60 provincial cannabis business licences available in Saskatchewan through a lottery process. In Saskatoon, seven retail licensees were selected. 

Last week, the Senate passed an amended version of the Cannabis Act, Bill C-45, to legalize access to marijuana, at its third reading. The revised bill will now go to the House of Commons.