By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
After taking time to review the legal opinion on a cannabis ban, Coaldale town council has directed administration to craft a cannabis bylaw
Council had previously directed administration to get a legal opinion on banning the sale and use of cannabis within town boundaries once recreational cannabis was legalized on Oct. 17.
The legal opinion presented at their July 9 meeting informed council that while they could prohibit the sale of it through their land-use bylaw, they could not ban the use of it on private property.
Council then had requested time to review the legal opinion, and a special meeting was called on July 24 so that they could provide administration with direction to craft a cannabis bylaw for the town.
“We had previously brought forward a draft bylaw regulating the consumption of cannabis within town, we will need to bring something similar forward at some point on the near future,” said Cam Mills, manager of economic and community development for the town.
“We do have an Oct. 17 timeline for the anticipation of legalization of cannabis within Canada, so with that date in mind, we’ve provided an overview of the assumption for these various bylaws, with respect of course taken for the need to advertise and that sort of thing.”
Unless another special meeting is called, Coaldale town council has only three scheduled meetings — to be held on Sept. 4, Sept. 24 and Oct. 9 — in which they need to perform all three readings and host a public hearing on the bylaw, before cannabis is legalized.
In a staff report, Mills outlined a potential timeline for the town to implement bylaws pertaining to the sale and use of cannabis in the town:
— In their Sept. 4 regular meeting, council would be presented with a draft Cannabis Consumption Bylaw for first reading, and presented with draft amendments to the Land Use Bylaw for first reading.
— During the week of Sept. 10, the town will hold an open house to present the proposed amendments to the Land Use Bylaw to the community for feedback and discussion.
— In their Sept. 24 regular meeting, Coaldale council will be presented with a staff report highlighting the information shared at the public open house for Council to consider as information.
— Finally, in their Oct. 9 regular meeting, Coaldale council will hold public hearings for the Cannabis Consumption Bylaw and the amendments to the Land Use Bylaw, followed by the presentation and final readings of both bylaws.
Noting that although the bylaws would be open for debate and amendments, Mills request direction for the bylaws, saying that it is “administration’s preference to bring forth a bylaw that’s in line with council’s expectations”.
Coun. Roger Hohm asked that if they would be putting any potential businesses “at a disadvantage” with their timeline, if they were to allow for cannabis shops in town.
“I would hate to have them at a disadvantage with places in Taber, Picture Butte, Lethbridge, Raymond, all the way around us, and put a business that may come to Coaldale, and have tax implications, business implications, etcetera, etcetera, in the town, at a disadvantage and go someplace else, and not look at Coaldale as a potential site,” said Hohm.
Mills said that the council calendar was the “fastest” they could see adoption unless they performed all three reading in one sitting, given the requirements to advertise, and acknowledged that do to the requirements of setting up a cannabis store — getting things such as a business license and approval from the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Corporation — there could be some “slow down” compared to other municipalities, although that would be on a “case-by-case basis”.
Coun. Jacen Abrey asked what authority the town’s peace officers would have to enforce the bylaw, noting that RCMP officers don’t enforce bylaws.
Mills said that enforcement of cannabis consumption would be along the lines of the town’s Tabaco Reduction bylaw, which would provide the means for a peace officer to issue fines and tickets to those in violation of the bylaw. Town CAO Kalen Hastings said that they may need to apply to the solicitor general to have additional authorities added to the peace officers’ mandate, as there were some bylaws were they needed permission from the solicitor general to add that authority.
In the report, administration had proposed four recommendations, with the last two recommendations being interchangeable. They are:
1. That council direct administration to hold an open house to gather feedback and engage in discussion with the general public on the proposed Cannabis Consumption Bylaw and amendments to the Land Use Bylaw governing the retail sale of Cannabis following first reading of the respective Bylaws at the Sept. 4, 2018 regular meeting of Council; and,
2. That council direct administration to prepare a consumption bylaw in line with the recommendations outlined in the legal opinion; and,
3. That council direct administration to prepare amendments to the Land Use Bylaw prohibiting the sale of cannabis in Coaldale; or,
4. That council direct administration to prepare amendments to the Land Use Bylaw allowing for the establishment of retail cannabis stores in town, with specific direction on appropriate zoning, setbacks, limits to hours of operations, and other matters discussed with council and the general public during the public engagement process.
Coun. Briane Simpson made a motion to go for the first three options. Hohm asked if they could add option four as a friendly amendment.
Simpson replied that she wanted to keep it as is, as she “talked to too many business owners, and they don’t really want a cannabis store next to them, so it’s going to be hard to find a location”.
“Speaking against that, I don’t think it’s up to a business owner, existing business owners to determine who gets to locate next to them, I believe it’s up to this council, and it’s up to the town’s bylaws, to set the standards,” said Hohm. “If somebody finds a location that meets the standards and meets the bylaws that we put forward, then that new owner should have every right to be publicly engaged and establish where they want. I don’t think it’s up to another flower shop to say, ‘Gee, I don’t want to have another flower shop next door to me’.
“I don’t believe that is why we set up a town and why we have business in town; that the business owners should be able to limit that.”
Noting that he thought option four wasn’t a friendly amendment because it was contrary to option three, Coaldale Mayor Kim Craig recommended they pass motions on each of the points.
Council passed a motion to direct administration to implement option one in an unanimous vote.
Council passed a motion to direct administration to implement option two in a split 6-1 vote, with Abrey being the sole vote against.
Council passed a motion to direct administration to implement option three in a split 6-1 vote, with Hohm being the sole vote against. As option three was passed, no vote was held for option four.