News / Calgary

Council dials back proposed cannabis retailer restrictions

A number of on-the-fly changes were proposed

Marijuana plants grow at LifeLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn. in a June 17, 2015 file photo.

Jim Mone / The Associated Press

Marijuana plants grow at LifeLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn. in a June 17, 2015 file photo.

Calgary city councillors have passed a number of relaxations on proposed cannabis retailer rules.

On Wednesday, during a council committee, administration presented their land use bylaw rules to ready the city's policies ahead of marijuana legalization. But just like rolling your first joint, the process wasn't easy. The rules will now be smoothed over and sent to an April council meeting before being passed into official law.

If council approves the changes made at the committee level, cannabis stores won't be restricted by distance when it comes to opening up shop near post-secondary institutions.

Instead of a 30 metre distance between liquor stores and weed shops, the language now just specifies they cant be adjacent to each other. Councillors also voted in favour of eliminating payday loans and pawn shop distance restrictions from the list.

"If you're an adult going to a pawn shop, going to a payday loan, we shouldn't restrict that," said Coun. Sean Chu, who brought up the issue.

Coun. Druh Farrell voted in favour of taking out the buffer between bud and higher education, but she wasn't keen on the other tweaks.

"Pawn shops, payday loans, liquor stores all concentrated in one area can give a negative message about a particular type of community," said Farrell. "That's why those distances were important."

This leaves the rules that protect kids from being exposed to cannabis.

Some officials, including Dr. David Strong, a lead medical health officer with Alberta Health Services Calgary Zone, were calling for more restrictions to the city's proposed rules.

"The important thing to state is cannabis has been an illegal drug, and because of that there haven't been a lot of studies on the long-term effects of cannabis," Strong said. "That's something we need to acknowledge."

He said AHS wants to double the city's proposed distances between cannabis store and schools to 300 metres instead of 150 as proposed by the city.

Danielle Halter, with the retail store Smokers' Corner, said with such restrictions in place, people who don't live close to a dispensary will find other ways of getting their ganja.

"Our users are more Caucasian males, in the 25 to 35 year-old range, they're single, why not put your stores with your demographics," Halter said. "Living downtown, if I can't walk to get something, I find another way to get it ... why don't I just call my local drug dealer to bring it to my door."

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