Council discusses Cannabis Legalization and what it means for Bonnyville

Bonnyville Town Council was brought up to speed on information, that is currently available, with regard to the cannabis issue. At the last regular meeting, Council discussed at length various elements of the issue, including current information passed down from the Alberta Government.

Mayor of Bonnyville, Gene Sobolewski says Council wants to be ready for when legalization happens. “The Alberta Government is being a little proactive with this issue,” the Government recently announced that permits to open a store that sells marijuana will go through the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC).

“The regulations and legislation surrounding [legalization] is still in its infancy, but a lot of it will be applied to what the municipality requires and desires,” the mayor explains that although the Federal or Provincial Government may have sets of regulations, the Towns will be able to shape those regulations to best suit each individual community. “For instance if the regulation is that a store be at least 100 metres from a school, the municipality can vary it to increase the distance.”

“One of the major issues with the stores, is they need municipal approval,” without approval and direction from the higher chains, Federal and Provincial, the municipalities aren’t able to shape their own bylaws or give approval to any potential businesses, says the mayor.

“We have a land-use bylaw, smoking bylaw, and a lot of other bylaws that will be affected. It will take some time for Council to shape to try to get prepared for [legalization].” Step one for the Town will be to change the land-use bylaw, confirms the mayor.

“When you change your land-use bylaw there’s a lot of public consultation,” this will give Council an opportunity to hear from the people and learn what their wants are. The bylaw will look at where businesses can be located. “It is a very public process.”

Mayor Sobolewksi does not foresee the Town outright forbidding marijuana outlets or usage, once it’s legalized. “We’ve spoken to legal [experts] and banning it outright is probably an idea that would be very difficult to achieve, given the current regime,” the mayor refers to the Provincial and Federal Governments.

“Eventually, cannabis is going to be legalized and we’re going to have to work with it. We need to figure out, as a municipality, that it’s regulated and do it right the first time.”

Cannabis is expected to be legalized in Canada in the summer of 2018. Mayor Sobolewski anticipates Council will have time consult the public, and shape the bylaws.