Town settles cannabis question, for now

‘That might be as good as it gets’

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Slave Lake Town council had pretty much cleared the decks for its Oct. 2 meeting, expecting a big turnout at a public hearing on cannabis, with lots of people wanting to have their say.

However, it didn’t happen.

Only two parties offered comments at the hearing – one in favour of the proposed bylaw on buffer zones (or ‘setbacks’) around schools and health care facilities and one opposed.

Survey on setbacks

Also presented at the meeting were the results of a last-minute survey on the setbacks question. Although interesting enough (One response was from Australia!), the survey results were about 50-50 – the question being whether 50 metres or 100 metres would be better. So there wasn’t enough there to induce councillors to move in one direction or another.

Speaking up at the hearing for the 50 metre option was a proponent for a prospective cannabis store, to be located at 1104 Main St. SW. The 100-metre setback would kill that idea.

The party speaking in opposition proposed a compromise, with 70 metres working better in some locations and 100 metres in others.

Councillor Brice Ferguson said he’d be in favour of a compromise solution on setbacks.

“The biggest thing for me has always been to avoid the heavy foot traffic for children,” he said.

Councillor Julie Brandle said she was, “really surprised the setbacks are as controversial as it is. I thought it would be the consumption and enforcement that people would be passionate about.”

Mayor Tyler Warman said: “There are some passionate people out there on that; they’re just not here tonight.”

Brandle added she was not in favour of having different setbacks for different zones.

Summing up, Warman noted that cannabis use is nothing new.

“We’re framing something around something that’s always existed,” he said. “I feel we’re on the right track.”

Warman added that the setback issue is not as big a deal as the consumption and enforcement aspects. Given the strict rules governing the retail side of things, “making it more difficult does not make sense to me,” he said.

Five of his colleagues agreed with that. One did not, that being Ferguson. Council gave second and third readings to the proposed bylaw change, meaning it’s a done deal.

Who actually gets a license to run a cannabis store, and the rules they have to follow in doing that, are matters under the control of the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission.

Consumption

With the setbacks issue settled, council moved on to consider a bylaw on consumption of cannabis by means of smoking or ‘vaping.’ The recommendation was to ban it in public, except at “an approved area of an outdoor public event.”

There had been a question of whether public consumption for medical purposes should be an exception, but council didn’t go for that.

So what the bylaw allows, pretty much, is consumption at home and nowhere else. As for dealing with nuisance smoke, mayor Warman pointed out that the nuisance bylaw of the town already has that covered.

“There’s a tool that exists,” he said. “I think that might be as good as it gets.”

Coun. Brice Ferguson

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