Spruce Grove rolls out cannabis regulation

By Councillor Wayne Rothe

(part 1 of 2)

Spruce Grove city council will soon decide how we will regulate the sale and consumption of cannabis. Residents are encouraged to complete our cannabis survey at sprucegrove.org/government/development-and-land-use/cannabis-retail-sales/.

The survey is up until Sunday, April 1. A public hearing is expected Monday, May 14 (see key dates at the end of this blog).

Cannabis will be legalized federally, with each province is responsible for laws within its jurisdiction. Municipalities will pass local bylaws. Tax revenue will be shared between the three government levels, with those details yet to be worked out. (I have concerns about this revenue sharing so watch for Part 2 of this series soon.)

Municipalities will not have the option of banning sales, unlike with liquor. Cannabis stores will not be operating nor will we see legal smoking upon legalization as the processes governing sales and use cannot be completed in time. First reading of the land-use bylaw is expected to take place April 23 with third and final reading likely May 28 or June 11.

Council at committee of the whole March19 had its first opportunity to discuss retail cannabis sales. That discussion is available on a podcast at Sprucegrove.org.

In Spruce Grove sales can only happen in the city-centre and vehicle commercial districts. Sales will not be permitted in the industrial district. Provincial regulations prohibit sales within 300 metres of a school, public library or public recreation facility, within 200 metres of public parks and within 100 metres of provincial health care facilities or daycare facilities. Municipalities may implement more stringent setbacks.

These are the numbers of retail stores that we could see based on certain minimum setbacks. Setbacks of 200 metres could see up to 18 stores, 300 metres up to 12 stores, and 500 metres up to six stores. We wouldn’t necessarily reach those maximums. While I await the results of our survey, I doubt that our community wants up to 18 cannabis stores.

The city may also impose tighter restrictions on store opening hours than for liquor sales. Alberta liquor stores may open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Council may also consider greater restrictions on where the product can be legally smoked compared to our smoking bylaw. I currently favour being more restrictive for both store hours and where cannabis can be smoked, but I look forward to our public input.

It’s easier to be more restrictive now and lessen the limits later, rather than being forced to tighten restrictions because we were found them too lax. We also have to consider that our setbacks could prohibit the future location of parks, daycare facilities and schools, for example.

Some key dates (readings and the hearing are proposed only):

April 1 – the public survey closes

April 23 – first reading of the bylaw

May 14 – public hearing

May 14 or 28 – second reading

May 28 or June 11 – third reading

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