Council finally sets cannabis bylaw

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After lively debate at two previous meetings and three public hearings, Airdrie City council finally approved a bylaw at its Sept. 4 meeting which determines where cannabis retailers will be allowed to open once the product is legal Oct. 17.

Council was unable to come to an agreement on whether cannabis retailers should be treated the same as liquor retailers, or be subject to additional restrictions.

Coun. Candice Kolson was a proponent for treating both legal products in the same manner, arguing to that effect since the issue was first raised at the July 3 meeting.

“I see no difference in the two,” she said, Sept. 4. “I will support the bylaw but with…the map mirroring liquor store [locations].”

The provincial guidelines state only that there be a setback of 100 metres between cannabis retailers and schools and provincial health care facilities; however, municipalities are given latitude to establish their own guidelines. Administration had recommended a more restrictive option, which limited cannabis retailers to fewer areas than those in which liquor stores are allowed to set up shop.

During the Sept. 4 public hearing, a number of residents and cannabis retailers spoke in favour of the bylaw.

Todd Wytrychowski said he didn’t understand why the city wanted to implement restrictions over and above what the province and the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission has mandated.

“The issue is, yes, you may not agree with it morally, but guess what? That doesn’t matter anymore,” he said. “It’s here and it’s legal, and we’re going to have to deal with it. The question is whether this council wants to embrace it, wants to add jobs, wants to protect its children.”

Angus Taylor, chief executive officer of New Leaf Cannabis, said he wanted to set up two stores in Airdrie and hoped council would support a bylaw wherein cannabis retailers are treated the same as liquor stores.

City Planner William Czaban said staff was not trying to be the “morality police” by recommending extra restrictions.

“The fundamentals of our administrative position is that we want to open up a number of non-residential districts, but not necessarily parallel with liquor stores,” he said. “We’re providing discretion for administration and our Municipal Planning Commission for setbacks and separation distances that the public had requested in our [public]consultation.”

The bylaw passed first reading, with Mayor Peter Brown opposed. Kolson then proposed an amendment to the motion changing the restrictions to mirror those for liquor stores, which passed with opposition from Couns. Petrow, Jones and Hegg.

Ultimately, third reading of the bylaw passed with Jones and Petrow opposed.

Information about the bylaw and the areas in which cannabis retailers will be allowed is available at airdrie.ca

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