Councillors on Calgary city council’s planning and urban development committee have made a number of adjustments to where cannabis retail stores can be set up when recreational marijuana is legalized in Canada.
City administrators had come up with a set of distances to regulate how far away cannabis stores could be from liquor stores, schools, post-secondary institutions, as well as pay day loan operators and child care centres.
Matt Zabloski, project lead for the legalization of cannabis for the city, said it was a delicate balance to come up with rules.
“We’re cognizant of the fact that this will be a legal industry and we’re going to be providing the ability for people to open stores and that’s why some of the separation distances may not be to the extent that some people would really like.”
After several hours of debate on Wednesday and with input from the public, the committee voted to relax some of the restrictions.
While the 150-metre setback away from schools is still recommended, it now won’t apply to post-secondary institutions.
Councillor Jyoti Gondek questioned why post-secondary institutions were targeted.
“If we’re saying you could buy it if you’re over 18, why do we have to separate it from a university?”
Dr. David Strong, the Calgary Zone lead and medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services, wanted the tighter restrictions.
“It’s hard to dial it back once you kind of let the horse out of the barn which, in some ways, we might have done that with alcohol — it’s readily available,” he said.
There was a proposal that cannabis stores had to be at least 30 metres away from liquor stores but that has been changed to: liquor stores must not be located adjacent or connected to a cannabis store.
However, there is still the requirement that stores that sell marijuana have to be separated by at least 300 metres.
There is also a 150-metre setback from emergency shelters and 100 metres from hospitals being proposed.
Gondek says administration has been put in an almost impossible situation in trying to come up with rules for a drug which will soon be legal. She said members of her committee likely had a tough time with the regulations because of the product that is being legalized.
“We’re trying to balance the very technical job of how we allow the sale of a product with our own discomfort over the appropriateness of that product,” she said.
“That may lead us down a road of stigmatization where we’re making some assumptions of users. They’re not all burnouts and addicts and a lot of them may look like us.”
Bylaws will now be prepared for a special public hearing of Calgary city council on April 5.