Edmonton moved to close loopholes in the zoning bylaw Tuesday to ensure marijuana sales can’t happen in corner stores and residential neighbourhoods.
The zoning changes will also specifically ban toking in pubs, a move city planners called “preventative maintenance” to prepare Edmonton for the coming legalization of recreational marijuana use.
“So operations aren’t able to legitimize blended uses,” said senior planner Colton Kirsop at council’s executive committee. He recommended other zoning changes and smoking bans be delayed until the federal rules are clear so council debate doesn’t “get lost in the weeds.”
Ottawa is expected in June to introduce legislation regarding recreational marijuana, with legalization to follow in 2019. Based on task force recommendations, it appears it will also legalize cannabis lounges, but ban drinking and smoking there, say city staff.
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The federal government would also regulate the personal production of marijuana, likely to four plants per site, said staff. In addition, it has moved from the term and spelling of “marihuana” to “cannabis.” Edmonton is now using the term “cannabis” for its bylaw.
Les Hagen with Action on Smoking and Health argued at committee any stiff zoning regulations also be applied to tobacco sales, since they are causing more health problems. His concern is increased marijuana use will “re-normalize” smoking.
Councillors debated whether enforcement costs could be recovered through high business licensing fees. But that’s still unclear.
“We don’t want to be stuck with ridiculous costs on this,” Coun. Michael Oshry said before committee approved the report, sending the basic zoning changes to a public hearing.
The proposed zoning changes would specifically prohibit the sale and consumption of cannabis in bars, neighbourhood pubs, nightclubs and private clubs. It would prohibit the sale of cannabis from convenience stores and general retail stores, and prohibit the sale, production or shipping of cannabis as a home-based business.
The changes would also prohibit an area zoned for a greenhouse, garden centre or nursery from being used to grow cannabis. That would only be permitted, if licensed by Health Canada, in areas zoned for urban indoor or outdoor farm, rural or non-commercial farm or urban garden.
The Health Canada licence prohibits production beside a school, playground or other place frequented by children.
Edmonton’s zoning regulations would allow a Health Canada licensed production and distribution facility in any areas zoned for general industrial use.
City officials said any further zoning changes should wait until the federal rules around recreational use become more clear. The federal task force has suggested anyone growing cannabis for personal use should be limited to four plants, which city officials say shouldn’t need further municipal regulations.
What are other cities doing?
Calgary: A medical marijuana counselling centre where counselling is done by people who are not medical professionals must be located 150 metres from a school and 300 metres from any other centres.
Toronto: Marijuana production facilities must be 70 metres from a home, institution, school, place of worship or daycare.
Vancouver: Compassion clubs and medical marijuana retail stores must be 300 metres from a school, community centre or residence and 300 metres from another marijuana facility. Facilities are also banned from areas with vulnerable populations such as the Downtown Eastside.
Victoria: Any medical marijuana-related business, including bakeries or shops, must be 200 metres from a school and 200 metres from another related business. Hours of operation are limited to 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and there are limits on advertising, a prohibition on using the drug on site, and other security precautions.