City council passes third reading on cannabis retail legislation

A report due in about 14 months’ time will help council see where things stand

City council passed third reading of a land use bylaw this week related to cannabis retail sales in Red Deer following a public hearing last month.

Cannabis retail stores must be located a minimum of 300m from each other and from locations such as recreation centers, daycares, hospitals and schools.

In mid April, Bylaw 3357/L-2018 – which dealt primarily with definitions – passed second and third readings unanimously by council.

Bylaw 3357/P-2018 – which dealt with particulars including separation distances between retailers and other facilities – was discussed but a tabling motion was introduced for administration to explore options and planning implications connected to changing various amendments within that bylaw.

These included the proposal to have cannabis stores 100m from a drinking establishment, microbrewery or liquor, beer and/or wine sales businesses, for example.

“Tonight what council attended to was in terms of the specific zonings in the City and the land use separation distances,” said Mayor Tara Veer, adding that the public hearing showed mixed views both in the community and within council as well.

“Essentially tonight we adopted a bylaw that accommodates the federal legalization when that occurs, and approves the specific locations and the parameters on which those retail applications can come forward,” she said.

“Following the feedback we heard from the surveys and the hearing, council was wanting to be responsive to that feedback. There was some sentiment that council should be more stringent than what we had in the bylaw, and there was also some sentiment that council should open up the bylaw,” she said.

In addition to identifying separation distances, the updated bylaw also limits cannabis retail sales to the City center – downtown – Commercial District (C1) and the Major Arterial District (C4), which runs along Gaetz Avenue.

The updated land use bylaw also states that cannabis retail stores cannot be located adjacent to drinking establishments, microbreweries and liquor sales and 100m from post-secondary institutions.

Additional regulations include – no person may ingest/consume cannabis on retail premises, no outdoor storage, no emission of odour, products in the store must not be visible from the outside and drive-through windows are prohibited.

Other regulations include that retail spots must have professionally installed and monitored alarm systems, digital camera security systems and the the business name must be prominently displayed at all public access points.

Veer said there are about 35 locations where retailers could set up shop.

Council also decided that in 14 months’ time from when the legislation is in place, administration will come back with a report determining how the application of the land use bylaw is working or not working, and explore any recommendations associated with it.

The public hearing held last month came after council approved first reading of the proposed land use bylaw amendment March 5th.

Following that meeting, an online survey was launched to garner feedback from the public.

Survey results generally supported a conservative approach to the proposed bylaws at the time.

When asked what their greatest interest of concern was regarding legalization, 45% of survey respondents said that location of the retail stores was their main concern and 17% said they were interested in businesses’ opportunities related to cannabis.

Overall, 65% favoured strip malls on arterial roadways as the best location for cannabis retail stores.

Other areas with a high percentage of interest included major shopping centres such as South Pointe Common (49%); downtown (45%); shopping malls (31%) and neighbourhood retail areas (30%).

About 89% of respondents also felt that cannabis stores should be a minimum of 100m or greater from school sites or health facilities.

Some also pointed out that restrictions should be limited on where these retailers be allowed to set up shop in favour of keeping the local cannabis retail environment as equitable and with the highest potential for success as possible.

“I think it’s fair to say that we’ve done the best that we possibly could within the timelines we were given,” said Veer.

“Council took a balanced perspective – it provides business opportunity in the community for those who are seeking it. The bylaw is not overly prohibitory, but neither does it necessarily open it up in every district in the City either.”

“I think on the whole, we’ve done a strong job of responding to the feedback from Red Deerians,” she said.

Also, that report due back in about 14 months’ time will help council better understand where they are at and any potential adjustments that can be made down the road.

“There are also options in terms of variances in the future.”

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