The Town of Bonnyville’s land-use bylaw regarding cannabis went to a mandatory public hearing on Tuesday before second reading. Questions ranged from signage regulations, cannabis mobile trailers, and zoning from residential areas. However, council is waiting until the province sets their guidelines before they legislate where smoking will be allowed.
“We’ll be making amendments after we find out what they’re [ALGC] doing,” said Mayor Gene Sobolowski.
“And that’s why we’re taking that land use bylaw to second reading, because who knows what the AGLC will come up with, and the same thing with federal government. We don’t want to go back and re-do a bylaw just because we were trying to act in haste.”
The bylaw states cannabis retail establishments shall not be located within 150 metres of schools, children’s recreational facilities, healthcare, or public parks or playgrounds. No shop is allowed to open in a residential area, and there must be a minimum 20m separation distance from residential areas. This would affect the north side of 51st avenue the most.
Also, retail stores would only be allowed one wall-mounted or free standing sign, which a citizen questioned if he were to open a shop.
“I’m at a disadvantage in my store-front. Every other liquor store has 5-7 signs…but I would be restricted,” he said.
The City of Cold Lake has already passed their land-use bylaws following the minimum recommendations from the province.
“Kudos to those communities who feel confident in what’s going to happen and have given their bylaws full readings. We’ve taking a more cautionary route,” said Sobolowski.
Shane Thompson, Vantage Homes, asked what constitutes a “permanent structure.” He is considering selling mobile cannabis trailers. Council responded they assume that will be covered in AGLC’s guidelines.
A question was raised about whether Bonnyville would like to limit the amount of cannabis retail stores that could open. There are only 250 retail licenses available from the province. The Mayor is not interested in dictating business, either.
“If the service population are able to survive and sell products, they’re the one, the market, that has to decide that. The day that a council starts to interfere and dictate what can and can’t, and how many, it’s a very slippery slope…that takes us out of the realm of a free market system to a dictatorial system.”
The Mayor said that they had looked at the possibility of abolishing cannabis in the community completely, but their legal advice steered them from that choice.
It was long anticipated that cannabis would be legal and available on July 1 but that is no longer the case. Last week, Bill C-45 (the cannabis bill) came back to the federal government with some 40 amendments. The feds are accepting most of the changes but are firm that provinces will not be able to ban personal cultivation. They say this will “weed out” the black market.
On Monday, Bill-C45 should be back on the senator’s plate. If the Ssenate and House of Commons both approve identical laws, then the last stop will be royal assent.