By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
Lethbridge County council has taken their first steps in preparing for cannabis legalization.
During their regular Aug. 16 meeting, county council discussed land-use bylaw amendments revolving around where a cannabis retailer can set up shop in the county.
“As we all know, the federal government has approved legalization of cannabis, and that will come into effect in October, the 17th to be exact, and this is in respect to the use and sales of non-medical cannabis,” said Larry Randle, director of community services for the county.
“The province has adopted legislation that will regulate the distribution and sales and licensing of retail sales of cannabis. The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission will regulate all the rules around that — distribution network, online sales and so on. Municipalities are responsible — and that’s why we’re here today, with respect to this bylaw — with updating our own bylaws to identify appropriate land use districts where retail cannabis stores may locate.”
According to the draft bylaw — Bylaw No. 18-020 — retail cannabis stores will be placed under the discretionary use column for both Hamlet Commercial land use districts and Rural Commercial land use districts.
Cannabis stores will be listed as a ‘discretionary use’ to allow residents the opportunity to comment on it, and although a store may meet the county’s requirements, it doesn’t mean that it will be ultimately approved.
Additionally, provincial regulations state that a cannabis store cannot be within 100 metres to a school, school or hospital. County council does have the option of increasing or lessening that setback however, if they so choose.
One example would be the HC districts in the hamlets of Diamond City, Iron Springs, Monarch , a part of which lies within 100 metres of a school, community hall/playground or church, which would render them ineligible to host a cannabis store.
“The amendments that are proposed before you today, the criteria and standards for cannabis retail stores, the application requirements and it will amend the definitions within the land use bylaw to ensure clarity in regards to both retail cannabis stores and cannabis production facilities.”
Bacon also said that they had the “benefit” of seeing a legal opinion from Brownlee Law, which stated that municipality does have the ability to not allow zoning in their land-use bylaw that would allow someone to set up a cannabis store in their municipality, but that the municipality does not have the right to prohibit the use of cannabis on private property.
Coun. Morris Zeinstra asked how the bylaw would apply towards an acreage tat wanted to go into cannabis sales or production.
Steve Hardy, a town planner with the Oldman Regional River Services Commission, said that an acreage owner wouldn’t be eligible under the bylaw.
“It has to be a commercial building, commercial store. You can’t sell it from a residence, house, acreage,” said Hardy.
“The province — through the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission — has certain rules about the actual building and where you can sell it, and you can’t mix it with any other use. You can’t sell either things with it, so off a private property, residential property, you can’t sell marijuana, you wouldn’t get a license from the province for it.
“Just like you can’t sell liquor out of your back porch, same kind of thing like that, because it’s the same kind of rules.”
When asked if a place such as Broxburn Vegetables could sell cannabis then, Hardy said they may be able to but they would have to construct a separate building for it, as they can’t mix cannabis with any other retail, “at least the rules are at this point from the province”. Even is you are producing cannabis from a facility, you can’t sell it from there “at this point”.
Hardy also said that they way the bylaw is designed is a dual permitting process. You will need the license and approval from the province, and the province requirement is that a potential cannabis retailer would need a local development permit.
Part of the provincial requirement is passing the eligibility screening, which includes a background check.
In order to set up a cannabis store in the county, you would need to start undergoing the provincial process and pass the background check.
Council passed first reading of Bylaw No. 18-020. A public hearing date for the bylaw was not set as of press deadline, although the plan is to have all three reading of the bylaw — including the public hearing — done by Oct. 17. Lethbridge County council has three regular scheduled meeting ahead of the deadline.