Lacombe Council passes second reading of cannabis bylaw

Public hearing sees opposition to bylaw; third reading coming Sept. 10th

Lacombe Express File Photo

Lacombe Express File Photo

After a spirited public hearing, Lacombe passed second reading of the City’s cannabis bylaw.

“It has certainly been a lengthy meeting, which was to be expected,” Lacombe Mayor Grant Creasey said. “There was some considerations made for some amendments to the bylaw the way that it stood and hopefully the people in attendance will respect that.”

Bylaw 400.16, which will go to third and final reading in Council on Sept. 10th, passed second with the addition of several amendments based on feedback received from the public.

Most of the participants in the public hearing were against the bylaw as is, with the most common objection being the discretionary use for a potential cannabis retail at 5536 38 St, where Winks is currently located.

With this in mind, Council added an amendment for site exclusion at that location — meaning that no cannabis retail location could ever be located in that commercial district.

“After some consideration, Council felt that since it was such a small island in the midst of a residential area, it would be best to exempt it,” Creasey said.

There was some discussion on omitting any C2 commercial districts from cannabis districts, as suggested by Coun. Reuben Konnik, by Council ultimately choosing to just use a singular site exemption for the 38 St. location.

Other participants in the public hearing were hoping Council would establish a setback zone away from installations where youth congregate, such as Youth HQ.

Coun. Thalia Hibbs, who was on the Cannabis Readiness Commission, pointed out that, while that has worked for other municipalities, it would be difficult to establish in Lacombe due to the inability to build youth facilities where cannabis retail may already be located after the fact — thus establishing barriers to development.

“That particular method does have merit in larger centers, but in cities that are the size of this one when you put on a distance that may seem at face value an intelligent move — by the time you draw the map out, which you will see next month, it eliminates pretty much the entire commercial area. That is not the intent,” Creasey said.

Council also discussed the merit of putting a cap on the amount of cannabis retail locations that could be located in the City of Lacombe, much like the City of Red Deer did with their cap of 35 — 15 of which have been taken.

Council voted to not institute a cap.

“That type of anti-business attitude, in my opinion, has no place in City Hall and certainly not in Lacombe. What other cities do on behalf of other citizens is there business,” Creasey said.

Council during the public hearing was also criticized by some for not including certain people or experts in their cannabis deliberations.

Council felt that this was an inaccurate presumption and Creasey said that ensuring experts are consulted was something important to both Council and administration.

“There has been a very well-rounded cross-section of people consulted. Those that felt otherwise this evening perhaps didn’t have all the facts,” he said.

Following the passing of second reading, Creasey said in chambers that he felt municipalities have taken on the brunt of the federal government’s legislation.

“The President of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association has gone to great lengths to explain, certainly to our provincial government, that in fact, the costs are very real and they are mounting,” he said. “You have seen the amount of input that we have and the amount of time and effort that has been put in both by our elected officials and our staff in putting together these types of documents.

“It is still a ways away yet, so there is a real cost associated with this and I think both the provincial and federal levels of government need to clearly define how those costs will be covered.”

Council will return to the bylaw for third reading on Sept. 10th. with an amended version based on second reading.

“We will come up with a document that is deemed to be more suitable at our next meeting,” Creasey said.