Council passes 200m marijuana retail buffer zone

Councillor Terra Lennox-Zepp voted against passing the bylaw that enforces a 200-metre or greater distance between cannabis retail stores at the city council meeting on Aug. 7, 2018. (Jason Kerr/Daily Herald)

Bianca Bharti, Daily Herald

City council voted Tuesday that all retail cannabis stores must be at least 200 metres or more away from each other, schools and parks.

The motion went through second and third reading at the council meeting, carrying seven to one each time. Ward 2 councillor Terra Lennox-Zepp voted against passing the motion and Ward 7 councillor Dennis Nowoselsky was absent for the proceedings.

Lennox-Zepp opposed the motion because she said it lacked evidence to support the proposed distance.

“I think that a better way of decision making for our city is to gather evidence, to look into locations where this has occurred in the past.” She mentioned, after adjournment, looking at various legalized states in the U.S. and how they modeled their laws surrounding legal cannabis. “In this case, there was zero evidence…. It was simply a motion made without information and that causes poor city planning.”

After the councillor presented her position, Mayor Greg Dionne said he would support the 200-metre proposal. “I don’t know where you want to find evidence,” he said to Lennox-Zepp. “Cannabis is brand new to our country.”

The planning and development department drafted the amendments after council’s meeting on May 14, initially suggesting distances only for schools and public parks. At Tuesday’s meeting, Craig Guidinger, planning and development director, added the amendment for the stores’ proximity to each other after “receiving requests” to also address that.

Ward 8 councillor Ted Zurakowski told council he thinks the proposed law is “important” so businesses will already have an understanding about the regulations when they come to the city.

Dionne said one of the reasons he supports the 200-metre bylaw is to avoid market concentration in one area. “I don’t like the idea of having all the stores in one spot. We have a big city.”

Lennox-Zepp took issue with the fact that “we have not heard any justification for why (cannabis) stores are regulated differently than alcohol retail stores in the city.”

Within Prince Albert, there are no restrictions on alcohol stores in terms of proximity to other public spaces or each other, she said.

“We don’t know how it may impact positively or negatively as we go forward in cannabis legalization,” she said about the bylaw. “This is a prime example where we made a decision today with zero information.”

After the meeting, Dionne said, “Would it be beautiful if there was another country that had a model we could follow? I’d be happy to (follow it).”

When asked about looking at what various American states have done regarding cannabis laws, the mayor said you have to “compare apples to apples.

“They carry guns…. I don’t know what states she’s referring to. We are not the United States. We have different laws, we have different regulations.”