Town council is considering changes to their initial land use bylaw amendments regarding recreational cannabis sales in order to accommodate potential start-ups downtown.
At an open house and public hearing in the last two weeks, town officials heard concerns that restrictions on where cannabis retail stores can be located would limit businesses from operating downtown. The previous draft of amendments would have restricted stores from operating within 300 metres of another marijuana store and 150 metres from schools.
They have amended the bylaw, which is expected to have its third and final reading in council on July 9, by eliminating the 300 metre restriction and reducing the allowed distance to schools to 100 metres, which is the minimum required by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission.
The restrictions would have only allowed one business to operate downtown due to the buffer zone which would have been created by the Outreach School on Centre Street.
“The first model that was constructed made it clear that it was going to be impossible,” says councillor Jay Garbutt. “The borrowed model we were using was the one used with liquor stores and clearly the 300 metres distance between liquor stores wasn’t being enforced.”
“Anything that has the impact of bringing people to the downtown core is something council is very interested in."
“In some communities they are trying to structure zoning where the businesses are in one particular area of the community. We don’t know what is best but we are willing to hear what people think.”
Local Jaydee Bixby plans to open a cannabis retail operation downtown once Canada legalizes the drug, which is expected on October 17 of this year, and says the changes to the proposed bylaw are welcomed.
“We have multiple liquor stores in town and it’s great that we’ll be able to share the love with other businesses,” he says.
Bixby says the AGLC will require strict regulations on how businesses can operate. They require things like security cameras, reinforced doors, secured storage areas, and prohibit cannabis products and accessories from being visible from the exterior.
“We don’t want to expose it to anyone, especially children. But people think they’ll be walking through a cloud of smoke but the regulations say you can’t even so much as open a package in the stores,” Bixby says.
Councillor Garbutt says there are other provisions which the municipality must consider after the land use bylaw is approved, such as new bylaws regulating consumption and operation of businesses. Municipalities across the country are deciding whether marijuana consumption should mirror existing laws for tobacco smoking, which is restricted in certain areas outdoors, or whether it should follow alcohol restrictions where public consumption is prohibited.
The town will also look at appropriate hours of operation for these businesses.