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City considering smoke free downtown after legalization

The city is looking at ways to keep pot smoke out of the downtown core. It’s not currently covered by the Smoke Free Playgrounds, Athletic Fields and Recreational Facilities bylaw but the issue will be brought before council. The bylaw amendments proposed were strictly in relation to cannabis. There was no indication that tobacco would be a part of the changes.

Mayor Bill Given has raised concerns about the potential for public usage in the downtown core. Given describes it as a unique space that is heavily used for “retail strolling and shopping” something he wants to see continue to attract a variety of people. He says people may have different comfort levels with the substance, even after it is legal.

“It seems like a reasonable area for us to set a community expectation that that wouldn’t be an appropriate place to consume cannabis.”

“It identified the area on 100th Avenue from 102nd Street to 98th Street and 101st Avenue.” Given continued, “So that speaks specifically to the front facing avenues rather than the back alleys or lane ways.”

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He believes that would give any residents who may live in the area enough room to smoke if they wish to.

The city is using the already in place smoking bylaw as a guide to potential acceptable locations. Enforcement Services Manager Chris Manuel says those are already rules that the public is generally familiar with.

“That’s in large part due to second hand smoke and mitigating impacts in a fashion that people are already familiar with.”

Manuel also explained that they have opted to go with bylaws instead of an outright ban on public consumption in part to accommodate people that are just moving through Grande Prairie.

“Given the present prohibition in regards to commercial establishments and prohibitions regarding smoking in vehicles we figured an outright ban on public consumption would make it very, very difficult for some of the population to consume what, as soon as legalization comes to be, will be considered a legal substance.”

Given and Manuel have said that they expect to continue to operate on the complaint based response system they currently approach bylaw infractions with. Manuel says they would start with education before handing out tickets but acknowledges it will be a challenge.

“We have some experience based off of fire pits and tobacco today. I would suggest that going to evolve and there’s not a clear answer to it right now.”

Manuel says the city will be monitoring complaints and assessing them based on how they “adversely affect another person”. He also says the city will be monitoring home grows as well. Those will require a permit and be limited to just four plants per household.

Other items brought to committee included more information around the applications process for potential retail cannabis businesses. The business license fee is proposed to be $5,000, the same price businesses pay in cities like Portland, Denver, Victoria and Squamish. The city of Vancouver is charging $30,000 for a business license is their city.

The intake process proposed by administration is hoping to avoid a “Black Friday” rush style scenario. The bylaw amendments and new regulations are expected to go before council May 22, 2018. That will be another chance for community members and stakeholders to weigh in. The intake period could then begin as early as May 23, 2018. Administration proposes accepting applications for nine days and then a lottery would be used to determine the order they would be looked at.

Committee was also shown guidelines that meet or exceed provincial standards, including shortened business hours. The province will allow sales just like alcohol, between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. In Grande Prairie those hours will be 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m.

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