Calgary committee recommends increased separation from marijuana retailers

AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File

Members of Calgary’s planning and urban development committee want a bit more breathing room between cannabis retail outlets and pawnshops, payday loan operators and places of worship.

Despite the fact that the proposed changes would only impact the six applications the city has received for marijuana retail stores, Councillor Gian Carlo Carra pushed for the change, saying the last thing you want people to do is pawn tangible things to purchase marijuana.

“The closer they are together, the more there’s impulse acquisition of cash and then the impulse purchase of ephemeral needs,” Carra said. “It creates a spiral that people who are prone to these sorts of things engage in.”

READ MORE: How the City of Calgary will approve the cluster of cannabis retail store applications in prime locations

But he says there’s more to it than that.

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“People will start to get impressions of certain neighbourhoods if there’s too big a concentration of vice-related uses. And I certainly represent parts of the city that have laboured, for a long time, under unfair characterizations like that, and we want to fight against stigmatization.”

READ MORE: City of Calgary receives hundreds of applications from people wanting to open cannabis retail stores

Councillor Peter Demong questioned what difference it would make to have a separation of 30 metres compared to the proposed 10 metres.

“If someone is basically taking something to a pawn shop or getting a payday loan, and saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to go 60 more feet.’ No, this is unheard of.”

Carra countered, saying, “There is very real research that shows that even 60 feet makes a difference. And we reviewed that research when we started to identify and implement sanctions or controls against payday lending.”

READ MORE: Calgary city council decides where future cannabis shops can set up

Councillors Ward Sutherland and Joe Magliocca also got the committee to agree on a 30-metre separation between cannabis stores and places of worship.

“In my area, they have recovery and drug addicts in some of the churches, in the places of worship, in my area,” Ward 2 Councillor Joe Magliocca said. “They feel it is very tempting if there is a cannabis dispensary right next to the church or the place of worship.”

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Ward 1 Councillor Ward Sutherland echoed Magliocca.

“They are pleading, saying, ‘At least don’t dangle it in front of their faces, right beside the facility.’ And the 30 metres is affecting two locations,” said Sutherland of the 30-metre buffer between places of worship and marijuana retailers. “At least it kind of sends a message.”

The issue now goes to the full city council on June 25.