Cranbrook rolled out a first look at proposed municipal cannabis bylaws in advance of the federal government’s legalization deadline in October.
The four bylaws address issues such as proposed zoning regulations, amendments to existing rules for liquor licenses that now includes cannabis as well as changes to current bylaws regulating clean air and municipal ticketing.
“We’re going to look at it,” said Mayor Lee Pratt. “The bottom line is there’s so much unknown, so many unanswered questions, but I don’t think we can ignore it any longer, I think we have to put a start to it and it’s going to be change-as-you-go, depending on the province and the federal rules.”
While the federal government has passed the Cannabis Act legalizing the use of recreational cannabis starting Oct. 17, there remains trickle-down effects requiring provincial and municipal regulations.
The provincial government introduced cannabis legislation last April that set out regulations on the distribution, sales and retail licensing, as well as adding driving penalties into the Motor Vehicle Act.
However, it’s up to municipalities to create bylaws governing local land uses for potential retailers who wish to set up a cannabis business as well as setting out where cannabis can be consumed in public places.
The proposed bylaw sets out zoning requirements such as any cannabis retail location must be a minimum 100 metre distance from a school or daycare, while varying commercial zoning designations require a 30-metre distance from another cannabis retail location and a minimum 50-metre distance from a liquor retail outlet.
Those distance separation regulations were initially written to avoid clustering of liquor and cannabis retail locations, however, Rob Veg — the city planner who drafted the proposed bylaws — noted that council has the ultimate say on what the city wishes to allow.
Veg also said that in drafting the bylaws, he ignored any philosophical or moral considerations for cannabis, treating it as if it were simply another legally regulated product for consumption, such as alcohol.
Other proposed bylaw amendments laid out fees for liquor license and cannabis license applications, while also updating the Clean Air Bylaw, which prohibits cannabis consuption inside a public building and up to seven metres away, in a public park, in an open municipal space, a city cemetary, a transit shelter or bus stop, and on any public municipal right-of-way. Cannabis consumption is also banned during Outdoor Special Events, however, there is an application process for exemptions.
Complicating the matter are differences in provincial and federal regulations for medical cannabis, which has been federally approved since 2001.
“If I have a medical marijuana perscription to use, am I exempt from this bylaw in terms of where I can consume?” Ron Popoff asked rhetorically.
Pratt also raised concerns about the scope of bylaw enforcement.
“The one big thing that we have to address is enforcement of it,” he said. “We can make a bylaw, but are we going to be able to enforce it? That’s the big million-dollar question because you can make all kinds of rules, but if you don’t have the means and the resources to enforce it, good luck.”
Right now, the city is considering a $150 fine for smoking cannabis in a place that contravenes the Clean Air Bylaw.
The proposed cannabis bylaws are simply at the introductory stage, but while the Oct. 17 deadline looms, the draft regulations will be considered for readings at the next council meeting on Oct. 1 and adoption at a later date.
In other places across the East Kootenay, The District of Elkford has banned the consumption of cannabis anywhere except for private property will face a $2,000 fine. Elkford has also introduced proposed changes to zoning bylaws to allow for dispensaries and production facilities in advance of legalization.
Kimberley will be addressing cannabis bylaws, however, nothing has been presented to council yet.