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Blackfalds presents cannabis legislation at public hearing

First 6-12 months an, ‘Education’ period - Mayor Richard Poole

Blackfalds is beginning to role out their municipality’s approach to the impending Oct. 17th federal legalization of cannabis.

On Oct. 2, the Town of Blackfalds held a public hearing to present the results of their committee work which focused on three aspects of cannabis use: land use, smoking and enforcement.

“We had approximately 15 people that did show up, asking questions,” Blackfalds Mayor Richard Poole said. “We are still receiving the feedback and we are going to include that and bring it back to our next Council meeting in a formal matter.”

Right now, Council does have two pieces of legislation — smoking and land use — prepared for Oct. 17th.

“The first is our cannabis smoking bylaw,” Poole said. “That will include all smoking and all cannabis within the municipality. We will limit cannabis use to private property and smoking will be limited to 5 m from any public space and 10 m from parks. That will be for any smoking or vaping.”

Poole said those present at the public hearing did not voice significant concern over the smoking setbacks, but some citizens did ask why the chose to develop their own strategy rather that adhere to provincial guidelines. There was also some concern over the use of medical cannabis.

“There was questions regarding people using medical cannabis being able to do what they have always been doing. We assured them that the will. If they had a medical cannabis card, they will be able to use it outside smoking areas,” Poole said.

The bylaws proposed by the town did take into consideration put forward by other surrounding municipalities

“We decided to work within our own boundaries and make our own bylaws,” Poole said. “For the land use bylaw for example, it will be a 100 m setback from any school. What this will mean that they will be limited to the downtown business area and the highway commercial area.”

School in this case doesn’t apply to day-cares or youth centres.

“We were worried that if we put in a 100 m from all day-cares and other types of businesses that if we allowed a cannabis store to be built, it would mean we wouldn’t be able to allow other businesses in the downtown or the highway commercial area,” Poole said.

Poole feels his team has done a good job of navigating cannabis legislation, but feels the Province of Alberta could have set better standards.

“They could have made more common types of decisions, rather than passing it all down to the municipalities,” he said. “By passing it down, it is going to be patchwork regulations throughout the province. A person moving from one place to the next will have problems determining what they are allowed to do. That makes it hard for all the citizens of Alberta.”

As far as enforcement of cannabis in Blackfalds, Poole said the Town is hoping the first six months to a year will be educational rather than punitive.

“We aren’t going to come down hard on people during that period of time,” he said. “We will look at educating them and ensuring that everyone in town is well aware of what the new bylaws are.

“If there are identified problems, then as in every other serious situation — they will respond with more enforcement, but we don’t see that happening.

todd.vaughan@lacombeexpress.com

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