Prince Albert city council voted to cap the number of Cannabis Retail Stores at three, and unanimously approved an application to open a new cannabis store in the Cornerstone business area.
Bylaw No. 19 of 2020 passed second and third readings on Monday, and similar restrictions could be coming for liquor stores in the near future.
“We’ve been talking about capping the number of liquor stores every single year since I’ve been on council,” said Ward 3 Coun. Evert Botha, one of the bylaw’s most vocal supporters. “It’s been dragging on for many, many years. Unless we put a cap on it, you’re going to blink our eyes and there will be another discretionary approval coming before council.”
Although Monday’s debate focused on cannabis retailers, the debate frequently shifted to liquor stores since some councillor felt the cannabis industry was being unfairly targeted with restrictions. The recently approved application gives the City three cannabis retailers, while it already has 10 liquor licence permits.
The province had previously limited the number of stores operating in each community, restricting Prince Albert to two, but that policy lifts come September.
Botha made a proposal to cap liquor stores during the Notice of Motion portion of the meeting. His request was to have it debated on Monday instead of the next council meeting, but did not receive majority support.
He was a bit surprised council didn’t want to continue the debate on Monday, but was confident council would support the motion in the future.
“We should have capped this years ago, so I’m really surprised at why there wasn’t a willingness from council to simply say, ‘yes, let’s get a bylaw on capping the liquor stores,’” he said. “It’s as simple as capping a bylaw on cannabis stores.”
The provincial government is responsible for approving liquor licences. However, the City of Prince Albert must give store owners a business permit to operate them.
Botha said during the meeting that three cannabis stores are enough for Prince Albert.
Prince Albert’s newest cannabis retailer is 5Buds, a joint partnership between a number of Saskatchewan business groups, including the Peter Ballantyne Group of Companies and the Prince Albert First Nations Business Development. The partnership owns existing cannabis shops in North Battleford, Yorkton and Warman. Profits go towards economic development for 13 Saskatchewan First Nations communities.
The new store will open up shop at 631—801 15th Street East. Craig Guidinger, the City of Prince Albert’s planning and development director, said it’s one of the few places Prince Albert can accommodate another cannabis store.
Cannabis retailers are not allowed to operate within 500 meters of each other, and cannot be located near parks, schools or in residential areas.
“Frankly, you’d be hard-pressed to find many other locations,” Guidinger said.
Approving 5Buds’ application means Prince Albert now has its full allotment of cannabis stores. However, most councillors were confident they weren’t interfering with a growing market.
“I honestly believe that three is enough for the market right now,” Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick said. “If a fourth is required, then a fourth will open up. It’s a legitimate business. People are using cannabis and are able to use it legally now, and therefore, we want to make sure that we give the business community an opportunity to flourish and survive.”
Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards said he would also support lifting the cap in the future if it appeared the city could support more cannabis stores. However, he also said cannabis is an intoxicant like alcohol, and the city has a responsibility to monitor how both substances affect the community.
Like Botha, Edwards also said he would support capping the number of liquor stores.
Although 5Buds’ application passed unanimously, there were still some concerns the new bylaw could have a negative impact.
Ward 2 Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp was the most vocal opponent. She argued the bylaw created a monopoly that favoured the three businesses with licences. Instead, she’d like the City to follow the provincial government’s lead and remove the cap completely.
“Those locations would have this advantage to being the only one that could be here, and then those (licences) could be sold at an inflated rate,” she said during the meeting. “Why would we want that as opposed to having more retail stores? If you have more retail stores you get more property taxes, more income revenue for the City.”
Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski also opposed the decision. He said cannabis use was not illegal, whether residents like it or not, and he doubted the bylaw would “stand the test of time.”
Lennox-Zepp and Zurakowski were the only two councillors to vote against the bylaw.
“I don’t think this is the hill to die on,” Zurakowski said during the meeting. “I don’t think this is going to have a drastic effect on our community one way or another, except upon people looking to open up another business. That’s what I’m basing my decision on.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly quoted Coun. Evert Botha as saying he’d be happy with no cannabis stores in Prince Albert. The quote should have read ‘no more cannabis stores’. The Daily Herald apologizes for the error.