Regina City Council is sending a proposed cannabis store zoning bylaw back to the drawing board, focusing on a key change that would strengthen so-called ‘buffer zones’ between weed retailers and areas frequented by children.
The bylaw would prevent retailers from opening a store within 600 feet of youth-friendly establishments like day cares, schools, parks, public libraries, though no restriction would apply in the busy downtown core.
Councillor Lori Bresciani introduced an amendment that would prevent groups like day cares from moving within 600 feet of a weed retailer.
Under the framework presented to council Monday night, a daycare or child-friendly business could move within a block of a retailer, forcing it to become legally non-conforming. This means the two could operate in close proximity, but the cannabis store could not expand, and it could not rebuild if the building was ever destroyed.
“We can’t allow the very thing we want to keep out to go in and allow the cannabis operation to be non-conforming,” Mayor Michael Fougere said. “It just isn’t logical in terms of a policy statement. It shouldn’t go in.”
Councillor Bob Hawkins suggested extending the buffer zone to roughly two city blocks, but the idea was shot down by his colleagues.
“I think the rational for buffer zones is absolutely clear,” Hawkins said. “All we’re talking about here is how big the buffer zone should be… One block, for all practical purposes, is next door to the schoolhouse. It’s next door to the park. Two blocks gets the marijuana shop out of the immediate neighbourhood.”
The amended version of the proposed bylaw will by tweaked by administration before it comes back to council in late June. In the meantime, the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority has been working through piles of applicants vying for one of six permits to operate a cannabis store in Regina.
The SLGA could select successful proponents as soon as Friday- weeks before a zoning bylaw will be in place. Even if the bylaw passes, Fougure says the city likely won’t be fully equipped to handle legalization.
“In terms of roadside checks and the equipment being used by the police service, we haven’t heard what that’s going to be yet,” he added. “They haven’t had the proper training yet, so there’s some concern that if it happens July first, which has been the time-frame, we won’t be ready.”
Council acknowledged its heading into unfamiliar waters when it comes to cannabis zoning, and the incoming bylaw may not be set in stone. Once in place, report on the zoning rules will be finished within 18 months to see if any changes need to be made.