File photo from THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Andrew Selsky

Red Deer County passes cannabis retailer rules

All cannabis retail applications must be approved by municipal planning commission

Anyone proposing a cannabis store will have to run it by Red Deer County’s municipal planning commission first.

To ensure it was ready for legalized marijuana, county council approved bylaw changes to allow for retail cannabis sales on Tuesday.

One of the key regulations is that all proposed cannabis retail operations will be considered discretionary, meaning planning commission approval is required and there will be no places where cannabis retail is considered a permitted use. The municipal planning commission is comprised of all members of council.

Mayor Jim Wood said the county wants to ensure cannabis retailers go through the planning commission “so we can be sure that there’s comment from the public on every cannabis facility that comes in.

“Nothing will be coming forward without the public knowing about it because we truly want to make sure this works within our community.”

Cannabis retail stores will only be allowed in general commercial, highway commercial and comprehensive town centre districts. The stores will not be lumped in with other retail operations.

The county is closely following regulations already outlined by the province that include hours of operation (a maximum of 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.) and minimum setbacks (100 metres from sensitive land uses such as schools and health-care facilities).

“At this point in time, we’ll just have to see how it works,” said Wood.

“We are trying to make sure we’re following the guidelines of somebody who has done a lot more studying on it than we have,” he said, referring to the lengthy consultation undertaken by the province before it came out with its regulations earlier this year.

County staff have already fielded many calls from people who want to know where retail sales will be allowed.

Along with the county’s rules, cannabis retailers or producers must also comply with numerous provincial and federal regulations.

Wood said there are many unknowns about how cannabis legalization will affect communities.

“This is all brand new to Red Deer County. Cannabis is not legal yet in Canada, but we’re trying to be ready in Red Deer County.”

After several medical cannabis production facility applications came forward last year, council passed rules to regulate them.

Under bylaw changes passed unanimously by council last fall, medical marijuana production facilities will only be considered a permitted use in medium industrial districts. They would also be allowed as a discretionary use – requiring council’s approval – in a business service industrial district.

The “medical” part of the definition was dropped in the latest bylaw to reflect that cannabis production facilities may be aimed at recreational markets.

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