Even before the federal and provincial legislation is fully in place surrounding the legalization of marijuana the City of Wetaskiwin is putting together the beginnings of a plan to address and regulate how the drug can be used in the community.
Sue Howard, director of engineering and development, and Lisa Novotny, manager of engineering and development, made a presentation to city councillors during their Feb. 26 meeting, regarding some of the conversations and decisions the city must make in the upcoming months.
When it comes to growing recreational marijuana, single dwelling property owners will be able to grow up to four plants indoors. Those living in multi-family properties, condominiums — including owner-occupied condominiums — will not be able to grow or smoke cannabis on their property.
“This will have a pretty big impact on our community,” said Novotny.
Because of the restriction on multi-family properties and condominiums the city will need to create public area(s) for people living in those locations who wish to smoke marijuana.
These public trails would be to be connected by trails or sidewalks for safety reasons.
The public areas would also have to be located away from the proposed prohibited locations.
Dispensary locations will not be permitted to be integrated with stores selling tobacco, alcohol, or pharmaceuticals. “They have to be a stand-alone entity,” said Novotny.
The locations must also be no closer than 100 meters from schools and provincial health care facilities; the only provincial health care facility in the community is the Wetaskiwin Hospital and Care Centre. Municipalities will be able to adjust buffer zones or create additional zones based on the communities’ needs.
Smoking of marijuana will be prohibited in or near: vehicles, cannabis retail locations, hospital property, schools, child care facilities, playgrounds, sports and playing fields, skateboard and bicycle parks, zoos, outdoor theatres, outdoor pools and splash pads.
With the legalization of recreational marijuana, Wetaskiwin and all other communities across the province will be impacted in many ways: community land use bylaws will have to be amended, business licence bylaw amendments, potential amendments to community standards, public use spaces, enforcement issues, the potential increase in quantity of tax recovered properties with contamination caused by cannabis growth, employee drug use and the business hours bylaw.
Dispensaries may be open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., which is consistent with provincial rules for liquor stores. However, those times are not consistent with Wetaskiwin’s liquor bylaw. Novotny says this is one of the many conversations the city must have.
When it comes to signage, there will be several rules and limitations and the city would have to look at how that element would affect the land use bylaw.
“We’re going to have to come up with some options. We’re trying to be more proactive than reactive,” said Novotny.
Coun. Wayne Neilson is concerned about the timeline in which the city will have to make changes and potentially how little time that will leave for the city to engage with residents about the future of the community in a recreational cannabis world. “I’d like to make sure there’s time in the process to hear from the community. I think we need to give our community some voice.”