Red Deer will allow cannabis to be retailed in up to 35 locations once it’s legalized.
After considering more and less restrictive bylaw amendments Monday, city council ended up passing the same bylaw it had been previously recommended. It allows about as many marijuana outlets to crop up as there are local retail liquor stores, and it requires a 300-metre setback distance from cannabis retailers to schools, the hospital, recreation facilities and daycares.
Not everyone was happy with this.
Given the business people who came to a public hearing last month to request more retail opportunities, Coun. Frank Wong suggested going with 100-metre guidelines recommended by the province and adopted by Edmonton and Calgary.
He also wanted council to consider in the next couple of months giving broader commercial zones a chance to open outlets, rather than just those in C1 and C4. But both of his suggestions were defeated.
Coun. Tanya Handley suggested a more restrictive option would have decreased to 18 the 35 potential cannabis outlet locations. Since council could consider at some point widening the areas of the city that could apply for cannabis stores, and 18 seems a more manageable number to start from, said Handley.
But her suggestion to require a 100-metre setback between cannabis stores and liquor stores was also overruled by most of council. The adopted bylaw only states liquor stores and cannabis retailers not be adjacent to each other.
Many councillors admitted they felt “conflicted” and in “uncharted country” about setting rules for something that has never been needed before.
All things considered, Mayor Tara Veer feels council did its best to make a reasonable, well-considered decision that takes into consideration a public survey and discussions at a public hearing.
The bylaw adopted (and was opposed by councillors Wong, Handley and Michael Dawe, while Vesna Higham was absent) is balanced, she said, noting council had grappled with needing a cannabis bylaw in the books by July 1, which is when marijuana is expected to be legalized.
Various amendments would have required another public hearing, which would have taken more time. Veer noted variances can still be requested.
She said, “I think council took a balanced perspective that provided business with opportunities. It isn’t overly prohibitory, nor does it open up every district in the city, either.”
Council decided the bylaw will be reviewed in 14 months to make sure it’s “on track.”
Planning Manager Tara Lodewyk said many federal and provincial rules regarding cannabis signage will have to be followed by retailers, including no medicinal endorsements, no cute characters or graphics that would appeal to children, no sports or intoxication-related imagery.