Municipalities will need to consider changes to their land use bylaws to ensure proper zoning is considered when it comes to the legalization of cannabis. Black Press files

Bylaw changes needed for Ponoka to meet marijuana legislation

Where and how far from schools or playgrounds will be considered in the adjustments

While the federal and provincial governments are in the midst of cannabis legislation changes, municipalities must also consider how this affects them.

For the Town of Ponoka, the changes mean that planners need to consider zoning and potential use districts within the community, explains Tim Schmidt, director of planning and development.

“The number one tool would be the land use bylaw,” said Schmidt of where the focus would start.

This will be something to consider when deciding how far a cannabis store can be from a school or playground, explained Schmidt.

After that, the second tool the town can use is the licensing bylaw. That is used to address and regulate business operations to ensure the health, safety and welfare of public patrons.

The third tool planners will need to look at is the town’s community standards bylaw, which deals with issues such as public nuisance concerns.

Schmidt pointed out that the town cannot prevent something that will be considered legal, but planners can ensure locations of sales are in an appropriate location, which comes from the land use bylaw.

“That’s really why we need to be proactive in making sure our bylaws address those issues,” said Schmidt.

“What we would do is we would specifically define the use within the bylaw.”

Looking at the changes needed, Schmidt expects to see proposed changes come to council in early 2018.

He pointed out that the situation is similar to the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission in how liquor sales and oversight is conducted. “It really does parallel with liquor sales,” said Schmidt.

Indeed, the province has proposed that the AGLC be the organization to have oversight and distribution monitoring of cannabis in the province.

According to the AGLC website, the function of the commission will be to, first and foremost, keep cannabis out of the hands of children and youths as well as:

• Protecting public health

• Promoting safety on roads, in workplaces and in public spaces

• Limiting the illegal cannabis market

• Offering choices Albertans can trust

The AGLC’s role will be to provide clear oversight over the distribution of packages and sealed cannabis products, ensuring only legally produced products come into Alberta. It will also have to ensure cannabis is distributed to specialized retail outlets and those locations will not be able to sell alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceuticals.

“Work with producers and retailers to provide Albertans with access to clean, safe, regulated cannabis products,” states the website.

The site also states that regulations on licensing criteria and rules for private retailers are expected to be finalized in the New Year.

Correction

This article was corrected to clarify that the land use bylaw looks at locations of stores that sell cannabis and distances they can be from public buildings such as schools. It also clarifies that the licencing bylaw can regulate business operations to ensure health and wellness of patrons. The community standards bylaw considers issues such as that of a public nuisance. We apologize for the error.

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