Ponoka is two steps closer to having regulations on where retail cannabis stores can locate in town as well as on where the products can be consumed in public.
Town council passed first reading of the land-use bylaw amendment at its meeting Sept. 11 to govern where the soon-to-be legalized product can be sold. A public hearing on the bylaw has been set for Oct. 9 at 7 p.m.
The amendment proposes that Ponoka follow the minimum regulations set out by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC), as well as any Health Canada and federal government legislation.
Those minimums include a 100-metre setback of any retail cannabis outlet from any property identified as a school, provincial health facility or land designated as municipal or school reserve; no outlet will be allowed within the same space as any other business operation; that hours of operation be from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily; and, that all design and safety measures required by the AGLC be followed to the town’s satisfaction.
Tim Schmidt, director of planning and development, spoke to council about the bylaw’s requirements and said that the AGLC’s minimum regulatory standards and security protocols should be sufficient.
“This bylaw proposes use within the town’s commercial districts of downtown and along the highway and allows no variances to the AGLC minimum distance regulations to be consistent in its application,” he stated.
The bylaw also sets minimum parking standards of four stalls per 100 square metres of floor space, no outdoor product storage and that no nuisances — including noise, light or odour — shall be emitted from the outlet.
Coun. Carla Prediger quizzed Schmidt about the 100 m setback and if that figure was being set too low.
“We have elected to stay within the AGLC minimum distance. That distance will not constrain any of the downtown, but will constrain a portion of the Highway 2A commercial area across from Ponoka Elementary. All of the other areas would be open for development,” Schmidt noted.
He added the hope is to have second and third reading of the bylaw approved on Oct. 9 in order to have something in place in time for when cannabis becomes legal on Oct. 17.
Regulating public use
And that looming deadline had Prediger, as well as Mayor Rick Bonnett and Coun. Teri Underhill, question what is being done about public consumption.
Schmidt explained that presently, the issue is being dealt with through the public consultation process of the community standards bylaw, which will be presented to the public Oct. 11.
“This deals with the retail, but you’re saying that until we get the community standards bylaw through, that people can go out and smoke publicly and we aren’t ready,” said Underhill.
CAO Albert Flootman said Underhill was correct.
“At the Aug. 14 meeting, direction was given to address that through the public consultation on the community standards bylaw. That is being done over the next month. And yes, that could happen on Oct. 17 where cigarettes are currently allowed,” he stated.
For Prediger, going that direction isn’t logical, especially when the opportunity exists to have it done prior to the deadline.
“The timeliness doesn’t make sense to me,” she stated.
“I’m concerned. It’s like having the cart after the horse. You can’t walk down the street with alcohol, but you can smoke? What other options do we have to address public usage before Oct. 17?”
Flootman noted that council can direct administration to bring back a bylaw to the next meeting, strictly designed to regulate public consumption, while continuing with the process of the community standards bylaw consultation.
Council approved a motion that will see a draft bylaw to legislate usage of cannabis in public come in front of council at the next regular meeting, which has been rescheduled to Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Kinsmen Community Centre.