Canada: Controlling Cannabis Retail In Cold Lake

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Future cannabis retailers now know the rules they will have to follow if they want to set up shop in Cold Lake, after the city passed the final reading of the land use bylaw.

During their latest council meeting on Tuesday, May 22, the City of Cold Lake passed the final reading of the land use bylaw which dictates the regulations a cannabis retail outlet is required to meet within city limits.

For council, getting the bylaw passed sooner rather than later was a priority.

“We have had a lot of people showing interest, but now, with passing this, they can work with staff and rent or buy a property to start to develop it,” explained Mayor Craig Copeland.

Now that the bylaw has passed, cannabis retailers can kick off the application process with the city, so when the legalization of recreational marijuana comes around, they’re ready.

Although they can set up shop, Copeland stressed it doesn’t mean they’re open for business.

“They can’t actually sell any cannabis until it’s legal,” he said.

The federal government is still aiming for a July 1, 2018 legalization. In order to get the ball rolling, municipalities like the City of Cold Lake, are giving potential retailers a chance to get the process started by getting their land use bylaws out of the way.

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC), who has been put in charge of all provincial licensing applications and oversight, started accepting paperwork from interested retailers in February.

They have created provincial mandates, including a minimum 100-metre buffer zone between cannabis stores and provincial health care facilities, schools, and any land designated as a school reserve or municipal and school reserve.

The city agreed with the 100-metre setback, and included a few additional areas to the list including any parcel of land designated as a beach, park, or public service area, and any child care facility.

“I think we’re happy with where we’re at in terms of distance from schools and parks. We have a set of conditions that are there and we will see how many (shops) actually do open up their doors,” Copeland said, adding so far, the city has been approached by a handful of interested businesses.

He noted, “We’ve had about five different people kick the tires either through myself or staff at City Hall. There seems to be some interest. At the end of the day, we will see who is up and running and selling cannabis once the time comes.”

In order for a recreational cannabis retailer to comply with the land use bylaw, they can’t sell their product in the same location as alcohol, tobacco, medicinal cannabis, or pharmaceuticals.

Their location is also important.

A retailer must be located in a permanent facility that is a free standing building, which means mobile cannabis vendors are not permitted within the city.

They also can’t have a drive-thru window, or share a common entrance and exit with another business.

Where they store their product has also been covered in the bylaw.

In order to comply, cannabis retailers must have their own receiving and storage space separate from any other business.

They’re also required to have signage at each entrance clearly indicating minors are not permitted, and have translucent or opaque window coverings on all exterior windows.

Council has even indicated the dos and don’ts when it comes to business signs.

Both recreational and medicinal cannabis outlets must prominently display their business name at all public access points, not promote intoxication such as graphics showing cannabis use, displaying a price or price advantage, depicting a certain lifestyle, making claims to health benefits, a person, or animal, among others.

Even though Cold Lake has seen a number of businesses showing  interest, whether or not they will all be needed in the area is yet to be determined, Copeland said.

“I think what will happen, is the demand of the product will dictate how many stores can be viable. Everyone has to realize when you’re leasing space… in the end you’re going to need a lot of customers to keep the lights on.”

Although they’re working with retailers interested in the city, council also wanted to ensure they kept the public in mind when creating their land use regulations.

“As a council, whether we agree or disagree with what the federal government has done, it’s now a legal product. We’re going to work with whoever will be opening up shop in Cold Lake,” Copeland noted.

Although a decision has been made regarding the retail side of cannabis, council has yet to determine how people will be allowed to use the drug in the municipality.

So far, they have indicated they will treat the drug similar to alcohol – allowed in private settings, but not in public areas or at events3