Opinion: Burnaby councillors caved like cowards to cannabis NIMBYs

Chris Campbell

Let me state up front that I don’t use cannabis and have no personal stake in having easy access to this now-legal product.

I want to be clear so people don’t think my criticism of four weak-kneed Burnaby councillors has anything to do with me not being able to easily buy some ganja.

No, my criticism of four Burnaby councillors turning down a cannabis store proposal for Kings Crossing in Edmonds is based on how easily they caved in to the hysterical ravings of a mob of area residents.

I’ve covered and attended city hall public hearings for more 30 years as a journalist and a resident.

I’ve seen too many times how flawed the public hearing process is and how too much weight is often given to the sheer number of people – NIMBYs - who manage to mobilize to oppose something.

That seems to be abundantly obvious in this case. Burnaby council is supporting one cannabis project at Old Orchard Shopping Centre in Metrotown, but denied the Kings Crossing one at Edmonds and Kingsway.

Council voted 4-3 against the Kings Crossing store, with Sav Dhaliwal, Pietro Calendino and Mayor Mike Hurley voting in favour of passing it through second reading. I applaud the three of them.

Couns. Colleen Jordan, Dan Johnston, Joe Keithley (say it ain’t so, Joe!) and James Wang, however, voted down the store, saying it wasn’t the right location.

Jordan said that “concerted effort” to oppose cannabis stores throughout the city made up most of the opposition to the Old Orchard proposal, while the Kings Crossing proposal had more local opposition.

With all due respect to Jordan – a good person who cares about Burnaby – but so the hell what?

Being “local opposition” isn’t enough for a politician to oppose something. That “local opposition” actually has to make a convincing argument and not just spread ridiculous fear-mongering hysteria about what having a cannabis store in their neighbourhood would actually do. The August public hearing heard a whole lotta vague accusations about crime increasing in Edmonds if the store was approved without anything to back it up.

Too often politicians are influenced by big numbers of local residents who show up. It’s why so many affordable housing projects get turned down in B.C. As long as you can dredge up a large-enough group of scared NIMBYs to come out and cry “it’s not the right location” city councils will often quiver and cower.

Muse Cannabis
Muse Cannabis opened its first location on South Granville in Vancouver. If it gets past issues with its proposed location on Sixth Street, its New Westminster store will have a similar look. - Contributed

Have you been into one of these new cannabis stores before? They are chic and stylish (check out the photo embedded in this blog of Muse Cannabis in New Westminster). Have you seen the customers who shop there? They are regular folks who buy cannabis like they are shopping for eggs. They aren’t lighting up doobies as soon as they leave the store and staggering around assaulting people.

We have liquor stores in residential areas all over Burnaby. Guess what? Cannabis stores are the same thing. (My personal view is that alcohol is far more dangerous than cannabis.)

I’m not the only one who found it all a bit much.

“I was very disappointed tonight by the misinformation and fear mongering by speakers opposed to these stores,” tweeted Kari Michaels, executive vice-president of the B.C. Government Employees Union, which represents staff at BC Cannabis Stores, after August’s public hearing. “I hope Burnaby approves both.”

Sorry Kari Michaels, unfortunately moral courage is in short supply.

  • With files from Dustin Godfrey

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

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