Allowing cannabis sales in Red Deer County’s new Hwy 2 truck stop did not smell right to a couple of councillors.
Councillors Philip Massier and Richard Lorenz voted against development approval for an unnamed cannabis retailer to open a 1,200-square-foot space in a strip mall at Junction 42, a rest stop under construction just west of Hwy 2 near Penhold. The development application was approved 5-2.
Lorenz said Junction 42 is a brand new development and he is not sure he likes the idea of a cannabis shop being one of the first tenants. It might make the development less attractive to other businesses considering it, he added.
“What if the next person comes and says I don’t want to be beside a cannabis store?”
“Did we do ourselves any favours (by approving)?”
Cannabis retail sales is a discretionary use at Junction 42, meaning the county’s municipal planning commission, which is comprised of members of council, makes the final call.
Since it is not within 100 metres of a school or health care facility, and the proponents have written confirmation from Alberta Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis that it meets their requirements, the cannabis shop meets county rules.
Massier also questioned whether Junction 42 and its highway location was the right place for a cannabis store, or even a liquor store.
“Am I encouraging people to buy cannabis and liquor at a truck stop?” he asked rhetorically during council debate in which several councillors admitted to some uneasiness with cannabis retailing.
“I’m morally caught with this one too.”
While five cannabis retailers have been approved in Gasoline Alley, which is also home to a number of liquor stores, that area has become more of a full-scale commercial area than a highway pit stop, he said.
Coun. Dana Depalme asked planning staff if the county had any rules on the number of cannabis outlets allowed and was told there are not.
Coun. Connie Huelsman said while council has morally struggled with how to handle cannabis applications, cannabis sales are legal and county regulations allow for its retailing.
“It’s a controlled use. It’s out of our hands,” she said.
Mayor Jim Wood said “it’s always a challenge to balance moral issues and legal issues.”
As Junction 42 develops, it could attract residential developers and take on a different look, he suggested.
“I don’t want to stand in the way of one particular enterprise today.”
Construction is well underway at Junction 42 with a Petro-Can cardlock expected to open in November, with regular gas station, Tim Hortons, Burger King and pizza shop following.