Council adopts cannabis bylaw ahead of legalization

Council adopts cannabis bylaw ahead of legalization

Retail cannabis locations capped at 10, changes made to clean air bylaws and licensing fees

Cranbrook city hall is blazing a new trail along with the rest of Canadian municipalities with the adoption of its cannabis bylaw on Monday night at a special council meeting ahead of Wednesday’s legalization deadline.

Cities across the country are scrambling to prepare and meet the unknown challenges that will come with legalization, and Cranbrook is no exception.

“The rules could change as time goes on,” said Mayor Lee Pratt, speaking to reporters after the meeting. “The province could change the rules, the feds could change the rules; we’re just trying to be prepared for some of it, whatever we can.”

The Cannabis bylaw involves the land-use zoning regulations within the city and tweaks existing bylaws around clean air, municipal ticketing and development procedures.

No changes were proposed from the last time the bylaws came to the council table.

Going forward, the cannabis bylaw sets a cap of four retail locations in C-1 zoning (downtown core) and six in C-2 zoning (highway corridor).

“It’s a crapshoot,” said Pratt. “Is three too many? Is three not enough? Is 10 too many? Not enough? We don’t know. What will determine it is the number of applicants, solid applicants that have put the money up and are genuinely interested.

“We can change that number anytime we want. If we don’t want more than that, we just don’t approve them. If we want more than that, then we’d have to change the bylaw to undo that.”

In C1 zoning, cannabis retail locations must be separated by 30 metres, while C2 zoning locations have a 50-metre setback distance. Cannabis locations must also be a minimum 100-metre distance from a group daycare, playground, school or park.

The Development Procedures and Delegation Amendment Bylaw was also changed, which set a $500 fee for a cannabis retail licence, while also tweaking fees to liquor licences to reflect the rising mailing and advertising costs.

Tweaks to the Clean Air Bylaw include banning smoking cannabis — and vaping in general — inside a public building and up to seven metres away from a public building; in a public municipal space; in a city cemetery; inside a vehicle owned or leased by the city; during an Outdoor Special Event (unless an exemption is obtained) and in any public municipal right-of-way.

The fine for smoking in a prohibited area is set at $150.

In order to obtain a cannabis retail licence, there is a complicated application process to work through, which starts with the province.

A potential cannabis retailer applies to the provincial government and pays a non-refundable $10,000 fee. From there, the province sends the application to the respective town or city, which has the power to allow or deny a retail cannabis location based on their own municipal processes.

At the last regular council meeting, senior city planner Rob Veg told council that he ‘lost count’ of how many calls he had received from companies asking questions about obtaining a cannabis licence, estimating the amount to being over a dozen and a half.

However, Pratt says the city has yet to receive a formal cannabis retail licence application.

“To our knowledge, nobody has actually come up with the deposit and gone through the application process yet,” said Pratt. “Lots of inquiries, but that’s just people phoning and questioning.”

Pratt flatly admitted that the city may not be prepared for what the future holds for enforcing the cannabis bylaws.

“To be honest with you, I don’t think any municipality in B.C. or probably in all of Canada are actually prepared to enforce it, and I’ve said that all along,” Pratt said. “You can make all the rules and regulations you want, but it’s the enforcement that’s the key part, and it would cost a lot of money, for any municipality, to enforce it.

“I don’t think any of us are ready.”