Thursday, 01 March 2018 10:45

City to restrict cannabis stores to downtown

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The City of Swift Current will allow the establishment of two cannabis retail stores in the community, but it intends to restrict the stores to the downtown area and to only allow industrial cultivation in the city's industrial zones.

Councillors received a detailed report on the issue of cannabis retailing at a regular council meeting, Feb. 26.
Chief Administrative Officer Tim Marcus presented the report to the meeting. He indicated that the City will not opt out of the provincial government's allocation of two cannabis retail stores for Swift Current, and the City will move ahead with the planning and regulation of the issues within municipal jurisdiction.
Council unanimously voted in favour of a motion to receive and file this report, but councillors raised some questions about the sale and distribution of cannabis. Mayor Denis Perrault said he asked Marcus to prepare the report for the meeting because they often receive questions about what the sale of cannabis will mean for the community.
“The truth is there's still a lot of moving parts,” he noted. “The province and the federal government are working together to develop plans for what that means, but I think it's absolutely important that everyone in Swift Current understands that it is the SLGA (Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority) who will be issuing retail permits. It will not be the City that's issuing those retail permits.”
The City's responsibility with regard to the sale of cannabis in the community will be in relation to policing and the location of the retail outlets. Council members will discuss these issues in more detail at their next planning session in March, including zoning regulations, fire safety and ventilation requirements, consumption in public spaces, outdoor consumption on private property, and enforcement of the federal and provincial regulations.
Council is facing a challenge at the moment with regard to the lack of information on many aspects of the federal legislation to allow the sale and distribution of cannabis. The legislation was introduced in April 2017, but the process to approve the legislation in both houses of Parliament has not yet been completed. It is therefore anticipated that the effective proclamation date of the legislation will be in late 2018, but until then cannabis is still an illegal substance, except in the case of authorized medical use.
“This has happened very quickly,” Perrault said about the federal law. “I can't remember a time when legislation has gone through this quick, and for our province and for municipalities there's a lot of things that have to happen before we all know what it's going to mean for Swift Current.”
Councillor Ron Toles said he still has some serious questions about the details of the legislation, for example whether cannabis will be available online for sale, the age of consumption, and the controls for growing cannabis plants at private homes.
The Saskatchewan government announced in January that cannabis will be sold by private retailers in the province, and the wholesaling and retailing of cannabis will be regulated by the SLGA.
Initially, SLGA will issue approximately 60 cannabis retail permits to private operators in up to 40 eligible municipalities and First Nation communities with populations of at least 2,500 residents. There will not be any restrictions on the number of permits for wholesalers and producers, but they will not be allowed to sell cannabis directly to the public.
SLGA sent a letter to communities with an initial allocation of two retail outlets, and requested them to indicate not later than Feb. 28 if they want to opt out of having cannabis retail outlets. Marcus felt it was not a feasible option for the City of Swift Current.
“They had some debate on the topic, but the general consensus is that if you opt out that you’re just going to create other problems,” he said after the council meeting. “Since it’s being legalized, we might as well allow the two retail outlets.”
One of the issues that the City will have to consider is the cost implications of the cannabis legislation on a municipal level.
“We haven't pegged what that cost would be, simply from the standpoint that none of the legislation has been finalized,” he said. “So we aren't really sure what and how we're going to enforce. I'd say that any estimates that have been provided have been a pretty liberal guess.”
He noted that enforcement will be an important part of the cost to implement the new federal legislation.
“The main part would be the enforcement area, whether it’s going to be bylaw or municipal detachment that’s doing it, because it will all require additional resources in order to do that,” he said. “The rest of it is just preparing bylaws and making amendments to our zoning bylaw as to where and how these places would operate.”
He hopes to have more information available about the legislation for the discussion during council's planning session in March. City administration will use the direction received from council to start with the process to create relevant bylaws, which will then be considered by councillors at a future council meeting. The discussion at the planning session might include consideration of the need for public consultation.
“The zoning issue is separate, but there’s a lot of other things that will be part of the discussion at the planning session in March, because we do have a fair amount of time to go forward for some of the other items,” he said. “So that will be part of the discussion as to whether we want to engage the public, like surveys or opinions to see where they land on it, but we need more information before we can go to the public.”

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Matthew Liebenberg


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