Cannabis company spends $1 million to bring legal pot to UBC

It came as a delight to many locals, including dozens of UBC students who were lined up outside of the shop

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Just steps from the University of British Columbia’s main campus, Burb Cannabis opened its newest dispensary on Friday morning.

It came as a delight to many locals, including dozens of UBC students who were lined up outside of the shop at 5784 University Blvd., technically not on campus, but next door in what is known as the “university village,” for its 10 a.m. grand opening.

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John Kaye, co-founder and CEO of Burb, took scissors to a gold ribbon outside his eighth location, reaching the province’s cap on how many cannabis stores any one business can operate.

“Let’s cut the ribbon, let’s get high,” said Kaye, who was followed inside his dispensary by a flood of UBC students. Several declined to speak to Postmedia News Friday, citing fears for future job prospects due to the stigma associated with cannabis use.

Peter Pittson, Burb UBC General Manager and John Kaye, Co-founder of Burb inside Burbs on UBC Endowment Lands in Vancouver, BC, February 23, 2024.(Arlen Redekop / Postmedia staff photo) Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

One of them, Brenda Lau, was vocal about her support for the new private retail operation.

“It says, ‘Hey it’s OK, it’s normal to use weed on campus,’” said Lau, an undergraduate neuroscience major who sees Canada’s 2018 legalization of cannabis as a positive thing. “Why would we have two liquor stores (near) campus and not this?”

The 19-year-old told Postmedia she uses cannabis to manage symptoms of her attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. “I don’t smoke weed during classes. It’s for when I do homework in the evenings. I’m currently prepping for my MCAT exam and weed helps me focus, but I know that’s not the case for everyone.”

For students such as Lau, who live on campus, the next closest cannabis retailer is a 10-minute bus ride away in West Point Grey.

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“You’re not allowed to smoke weed much anyways on the UBC campus,” said Lau.

According to university guidelines, smoking cannabis is prohibited anywhere on UBC student residence property, indoors, in bus shelters, in UBC vehicles, and within eight metres of doors and air intakes.

It took Burb’s CEO three years to open up the store at a location this close to campus.

First, the business submitted a University Endowment Lands application on behalf of Mandial Holdings Ltd. Inc. to amend local zoning bylaws to allow for a non-medical cannabis shop.

During that time, some neighbours, including Connie Chen, created a petition signed by 2,000 people against the proposed cannabis shop, citing concerns of harm caused by second-hand smoke on or near UBC campus.

“By allowing cannabis retail to exist in this business plaza, we are putting vulnerable children at a high risk of exposure to substances they are too young for,” read the petition.

Kaye said Burb had to go through a provincial approval processes as well.

“The big delay with those was when we’d pass one there would be a period of consultation for it and then someone would send in a complaint which had to be reviewed. It was a lengthy process.”

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During that time, the CEO continued to pay to lease the commercial space, which sat vacant, so that the location was kept available in case it was able to become Burb’s eighth cannabis dispensary in the province. Some of its other locations are in Port Moody, Port Coquitlam, Vancouver and Victoria.

“Altogether, the store cost us around $1 million,” said Kaye, who is hoping to make that back in profit from sales at the new Burb location in the next few years.

“The store makes sense for the village because a lot of students already access the substance, and there’s a liquor store right over there.”

Bryson Rabang, 28, purchased a hoodie bearing the words “UBC” from the retailer Friday to support the company.

“They sell our products,” said Rabang, who is an employee of Shxwa:y village’s All Nations Cannabis’s 30,000-square-foot growing facility near Chilliwack.

“Before cannabis, the only job we had on the reserve was landscaping, and that was seasonal, so not everyone is employed.

“Now that we’re growing cannabis, people on our reserve can expand places. Like I go all around Vancouver now, I am able to afford a car and everything.”

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