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Friday, 31 August 2018 05:03

Organizations raise concerns about cannabis retail activity near youth centre

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The Center Executive Director Nathan Wiebe speaks during the public hearing, Aug. 27. Seated behind him is  Pastor Kevin Snyder of the East Side Church of God. The Center Executive Director Nathan Wiebe speaks during the public hearing, Aug. 27. Seated behind him is Pastor Kevin Snyder of the East Side Church of God. Matthew Liebenberg/Prairie Post

Two organizations expressed concerns at a public hearing about allowing cannabis retail activity near the downtown Swift Current location of a non-profit organization that provides programs and support services to youth.

The public hearing took place during a regular City of Swift Current council meeting, Aug. 27. The hearing was scheduled as part of the process to amend the City's zoning bylaws to clearly delineate the areas where cannabis retail stores and production facilities will be allowed to operate.
The amendments to the bylaws are done in preparation for the legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada on Oct. 17. The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) has issued 51 cannabis retail store permits in the province. Permits for two cannabis retail stores have been allocated to Swift Current.
City administration previously presented a report to council that proposed amendments to the zoning bylaws to limit the location of retail cannabis stores to the downtown core and cannabis production operations to the industrial districts.
The current central commercial district in the city’s downtown core includes commercial properties adjacent to residential neighbourhoods. City administration is suggesting the creation of a new zone district within the existing central commercial district where cannabis retail stores will be allowed.
The joint presentation at the public hearing was made by Nathan Wiebe, the executive director of the Swift Current Community Youth Initiative (operating as The Center) and Pastor Kevin Snyder of the East Side Church of God, the owner/lessor of the property from which The Center operates.
“We desire to continue to see the city of Swift Current as a place where parents and guardians do not need to worry about constantly monitoring their children to ensure their well-being,” Wiebe said.
“At The Center in particular, we continue to strive to provide a safe place for the youth of our city, separate and apart from any potentially harmful influences.”
The mission of The Center is to provide healthy lifestyle choices for youth that will help them to grow into strong and successful individuals while strengthening families in the community. Wiebe highlighted the various goals of The Center to achieve its mission.
To help it to achieve these goals, The Center has a code of behaviour for youth who participate in programs and activities at the facility that includes zero tolerance for the consumption of any drugs or alcohol.
“Our concern is about the potential of a cannabis retail store being permitted to operate in close vicinity to The Center, which would directly counter the ability of The Center to achieve its above-stated goals,” he said. “Further, passing a bylaw that would allow the juxtaposition of a cannabis retail store next to a community youth support centre would give the appearance of a lack of support by the City to such a centre, regardless of the lack of truth to same.”
The two organizations included supporting material with their submission to the public hearing. Snyder highlighted some options that have been considered by other municipalities in allowing the operation of cannabis retail stores.
“We propose that any areas zoned to allow the operation of cannabis retail stores to operate should include restrictions to provide a buffer zone between such stores and the places that our children and our youth gather,” he said.
He referred to a number of alternatives to achieve this goal. One would be to include minimum separation distances between a cannabis store and any school, public library, youth or child-care facility, park or recreation centre.
“In our research we found that other municipalities typically imposed restrictions on cannabis stores from operation within 100 to 300 metres from such facilities,” he said.
Another option would be to prohibit any cannabis retail store from operating on the same block as a youth or child-care facility or on blocks directly adjacent to such facilities. Alternatively the zoning region can be amended to exclude the 0 to 100 block of 1st Avenue NE, where The Centre is located, as a location for operating a cannabis retail store.
“Although this is not central to our interest, it may be prudent consideration for the City to impose restrictions on the distance required between cannabis retail stores and liquor retail stores so as to mitigate the potential negative effects of having these types of retail outlets operating in close vicinity,” he said.
The submission by the two organizations noted that the SLGA guide for Saskatchewan's cannabis retail framework gives municipalities the right to place restrictions on the location of cannabis retail shops.
“We strongly encourage the City to enact such measures and policies to reflect the value our community places on the protection of our youth, and to allow and continue to aid The Center in achieving our shared goals of fostering and developing the success of our youth,” Snyder said.
The submission at the public hearing will be considered by councillors when they review the proposed amendments of the zoning bylaws. The second and third (final) reading of the bylaw amendments is scheduled to take place at the Sept. 10 council meeting.

Read 309 times Last modified on Friday, 31 August 2018 10:07
Matthew Liebenberg