The City of Lacombe gave final reading to a bylaw which will allow for the retail sale of cannabis.
C0uncillor Thalia Hibbs, who was on the Cannabis Readiness Committee , said she was happy with the outcome of this land use bylaw.
“I think it was a pretty robust process and I think this has been in front of people for a long time,” she said. “The recommendations by the committee were shared way back in April, so we really had a chance to talk about this for a really long time.
“I am really pleased with the final reading of that bylaw and I’m quite satisfied it addresses the needs of the community.”
Bylaw 400.16 passed third reading, with Councillors Reuben Konnik and Chris Ross against the bylaw and Coun. Jonathan Jacobson being absent.
Despite being short a likely vote in support that Jacobson may have passed, Hibbs was confident the bylaw would go through.
“I got the feeling from councillors in the past that they felt that this was the right way to go. There were some questions about specific issues, but I wasn’t concerned,” she said.
The reading means that potential cannabis retailers can now apply for business licenses in the City of Lacombe in advance of Oct. 17th when cannabis becomes legal nationally.
“They can start applying but nothing can happen right away because we aren’t at that stage yet. This does at least give assurance that this is the path forward,” Hibbs said.
Konnik was against the bylaw as written, hoping that an amendment could be made that would create a 30m buffer zone. Under his proposal, potential cannabis retailers would have to go to the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) if they are looking to set up shop within 30m of youth-oriented organizations such as YouthHQ or daycares.
Hibbs disagreed with this position saying a buffer zone would be a reciprocal problem, meaning that youth organizations would also need to go to MPC if they were to set up within the buffer zone of a cannabis retail outlet.
Hibbs believes council and the Cannabis Readiness Committee has helped get rid of some of the stigma around this issue.
“We have hit the right balance between promoting the business community but also protecting the community. There is certainly some unknowns but we are ready to face the challenges,” she said.
The bylaw passed after a lively public hearing on Aug. 13th which saw many community members speak to the bylaw — the majority of which spoke publicly against the bylaw.
Following second reading, amendments were made to the bylaw which included the removal of the Winks Store location as discretionary use to non-permitted.
Also following second reading, a member of the public requested guidance on how to submit a petition against the retail sale of cannabis within the City of Lacombe.
The City provided guidance on how to submit a petition that would conform to the Municipal Government Act.
One of the guidelines included in that is the need for 1,300 signatures from residents of the municipality.
The petition submitted to City of Lacombe CAO Matthew Goudy did not meet this guideline, with around 200 signatures being submitted.
Goudy did suggest to council that the non-valid petition could still be used as feedback when considering third reading as it represents people with an interest in the City of Lacombe.
Hibbs said she would have hoped to see the petition earlier.
“From what I understand is that it is a group of people flat-out against the idea of cannabis in the community,” she said. “I get that there are people in the community that feel that. It would have been nice if it came sooner.
“Would it have affected the outcome, I’m not sure, but I feel it is important for people to be heard.”
The only thing remaining for council to decide is a potential smoking bylaw that would encompass both cannabis and tobacco.
“We saw an initial start of that, but it was pulled back because we are really taking a good look at that. That is a shift for this community so we want to make sure we get that right,” Hibbs said.
Council may also in the future have to look at the potential of cannabis lounges, which would allow for the use of the product within businesses. Hibbs said this is direction the federal government appears to be going. If that were the case, Hibbs said another committee would need to be struck.
“We had some preliminary conversations but we didn’t go far down that road. I would definitely recommend that Council do something similar and strike another committee to have another look at that,” she said.