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Still no timeline for Whistler cannabis retail

Municipality fields 'extremely high volume' of cannabis inquiries
People waiting in the pouring rain to purchase cannabis legally from a Cannabis NB store in Saint John, New Brunswick on the first day of legalization in Canada in October 2018. More than a year later, Whistler still has no timeline for when the first retail cannabis store may open in the resort.

While cannabis retail was considered a 2019 agenda item for the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) at the end of 2018, the year came and went with little in the way of public announcements.

"If I look back on 2019, I would put housing as our No. 1 priority, and we have focused on that, and a lot of other major infrastructure projects," said chief administrative officer Mike Furey.

"So in terms of not pursuing it in 2019, I think we just had other priorities such as the environment, and responding and getting ready for wildfire mitigation and adaptation and emergency planning, and an array of other areas.

"So I think looking back at 2019, it just sort of got overtaken by those."

Whistler prohibited cannabis retail stores from setting up shop via a bylaw update in early 2018.

Since then, there has been an "extremely high volume of inquiries" from would-be retailers at municipal hall, an RMOW spokesperson said, adding that "staff continue to review the implications and considerations of allowing retail cannabis in Whistler."

As it stands, there is no specific timeline for the consideration of cannabis retail in the resort.

"I think it's something that we will have more focus on in 2020," Furey said.

Cannabis was one topic of discussion during a recent committee of the whole meeting attended by RCMP Insp. Kara Triance, officer-in-charge for the Sea to Sky, and Staff Sgt. Paul Hayes.

"I think having access to cannabis shops is very useful in that we are able to deal with the illegal sales, and the illegal sales are unregulated. I feel like cannabis shops allow us as police officers to do enforcement more clearly and monitor the sales a little bit better," Triance said, in response to a question about the impact of legal cannabis shops on the black market.

"Does it stop the [illegal] sales? I think it's too early to say at this point. Cannabis was just legalized."

And what of those "known locations in town" where people can buy black market drugs, asked Councillor Ralph Forsyth?

"We're working with the Community Safety Unit on the illegal sales of cannabis at shops that we believe are selling cannabis," Triance said.

"We've also got some work that we've done with the municipality locally here, the licensing units, and providing information that we've come across in our policing investigations that will hopefully help with the licensing piece of these shops."

At least one prospective cannabis retailer is trying to get out in front of the Whistler application process.

Vancouver-based company Eden Empire held a pair of information sessions in Whistler on Jan. 15 to start a discussion with local residents, with more to follow.

"This is to get to know [the community], put a face to the name, and also collect information that's going to be relevant for our submission," said CEO Gerry Trapasso at one of the sessions, held at the Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre.

Founded in 2009, Eden closed its previously operating retail stores before cannabis became legal in October 2018. Since then, the company has been working its way through the provincial application process for eight storefronts across the province.

One of Eden's goals is to work with municipalities to promote public safety, responsible use and education around cannabis.

"It is a company that operates from its conscience, not essentially from its corporate pocketbook, and I think in Whistler, that makes a big difference," said brand ambassador Daryl Auwai.

"My suggestion is always that we look for people who are committed to this community, committed to help it grow, in whichever way we can."

Residents with comments, questions or concerns about retail cannabis in Whistler can reach Trapasso at

-with files from Brandon Barrett