Canada: City Responds To Chinatown Residents’ Concerns Over Cannabis Stores

Photo Credit: Mary Getaneh

The city councillor responsible for Calgary’s Chinatown intends to work with community organizations after some residents protested two cannabis store applications in the neighbourhood.

Councillor Druh Farrell of Ward 7, which includes Chinatown, said she’d heard concerns from representatives of the Calgary Chinese Community Service Association and the Chinatown District Business Improvement Area.

“We’re now aware of their concerns and we’re looking at ways to address it,” she said on Sunday.

About 50 Chinatown residents rallied on Saturday to protest the city’s decision to allow two applications for cannabis stores in their neighbourhood. The group also collected signatures for a petition that asks the city to consider the Chinese community’s culture before signing off on cannabis shops in the area.

Community members said on Saturday that the establishment of cannabis stores goes against traditional Chinese values, and the city never properly consulted with them before allowing the applications.

“Talking about business, we don’t think a cannabis store is aligned with all the other businesses in Chinatown,” said May Han of the Calgary Chinese Union. “We don’t assume (cannabis) will bring unsavoury elements, but we do propose no cannabis stores because it does not align with our culture.”

Calgary’s city council has already established local bylaws to regulate the distances between cannabis stores and other buildings such as schools or liquor stores.

Most neighbourhoods have a minimum separation distance between cannabis stores, Farrell said, but Calgary’s downtown, where Chinatown is located, as well as the East Village, do not.

Both areas are asking for stricter regulations, the councillor added.

“Regulating cannabis is new for Calgary, and it’s discretionary,” she said. “So we can certainly look at their concerns.”

With the Senate and House of Commons still wrangling over the legislation in Ottawa, a date has not yet been set for cannabis legalization. But Calgary’s city administration has already established bylaws governing where cannabis businesses can set up and where the drug can be consumed. Any prospective cannabis business owners must apply to the city’s development agency for a permit.

Farrell pointed out that opening a cannabis business in Chinatown would require a land-use change application, which might make the process more complicated for anyone trying to set up shop in the area.

“They need to jump through more hoops, and it might be just easier for a potential retailer to look elsewhere,” she said.

Part of this application process will include public consultation meetings for Chinatown residents, Farrell added. It isn’t clear when the first meeting will be, but the councillor said she’s in favour of a careful approach to regulating cannabis businesses in Calgary’s neighbourhoods.

“We have a new law in front of us. We don’t know how it will work. We’re more prepared than many cities,” Farrell said. “We’ll have to look at each (of the concerns) as they come forward.”