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Weed bylaw changes put off until mid-June

Cannabis retailers won’t be submitting applications to city hall Wednesday. A lottery process was expected to begin after Tuesday night’s council meeting but all proposed bylaw changes had to be approved, which didn’t happen.

Members of the public, the business community and law enforcement were in attendance as council debated bylaw changes related to the production, sale and consumption of weed. Mayor Bill Given says council is looking for a way to have an appropriately regulated system.

“Management was initially recommending an approach that was really around using land use districts to regulate how this would be implemented in the community. Council chose to take quite a liberal approach to allowing cannabis retail in a variety of different commercial districts.”

Instead council decided to limit the number of licenses in the first year to just ten and will only allow up to two permits per business.

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Retail business hopefuls Tia Chabot and Rae-Lynne Robichaud raised concerns about the city’s plans for that lottery period. They would like to see a 30 day intake instead of just one week. Given says now that they have decided to only distribute ten permits they may have to reconsider their intake period.

“I think that that’s another opportunity we have in this intervening time for management to identify the best and most practical way to meet the intent that council passed.”

Land Use Bylaw amendments included guidelines for where in the city both retail stores and production facilities can be located. That sets out buffer zones around schools, health facilities and for production facilities a setback from residential areas.

Craig Ruether and Vik Minhas proposed their own overlay map or scrapping the proposed guidelines all together. They highlighted a lack of space available on the east side.

Debate kicked off with Councillor Wade Pilat making a motion to remove the ten meter buffer the city proposed between cannabis and liquor retailers. That motion was supported by five council members.

Bill Given and Clyde Blackburn were in favour of maintaining the distance. Yad Minhas recused himself from the votes and discussion due to a conflict of interest.

Council did also vote to scrap the overlay map. Again Given and Blackburn voted against the removal while the other five councillors voted to get rid of the extra restrictions the overlay map brought in.

In the first year council has decided to limit the number of licenses in the first year to just ten and will only allow up to two permits per business.

Public consumption guidelines around public facilities was also debated. The original bylaw changes included a proposed 30 meter zone outside of the movie theatre. That was amended to include other city facilities as well.

Bylaws surrounding home grows also stalled. Guidelines including security and permit requirements along with a limit on the number of plants that can be grown.

Enforcement Services’s Chris Manuel didn’t immediately have information on what those permits might cost. There was also no information available on fines or consequences for an infraction.

The amended bylaw proposals will be brought forward at the next council meeting June 18, 2018. If passed then the city could begin to accept retail applications the following day.

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