How to control the sale and use of cannabis in public were high on the agenda for council, May 14, as the municipality continues to prepare to govern the soon-to-be legalized drug. Rules governing where retail outlets can be situated and where and how it can be consumed in public were discussed.

First reading of the Bylaw 13 governing cannabis retail stores, was unanimously supported by council following a presentation by planner Adam Norquist and a brief presentation by Dr. Jason Cabaj, the Calgary Zone's Medical Officer of Health for Alberta Health Services (AHS). No relevant changes have been made since it was first discussed by council in March.

The proposed Cochrane bylaw calls for setbacks of 150 metre from the nearest property line of another cannabis retail store, playground, child care services, day care, hospital, emergency medical facility or school site. The stores will be limited to two signs for the sole purpose of business identification on the same parcel as the premises. There are also lighting requirements outside of the store and in the parking store for safety reasons.

The framework of AHS is more restrictive and calls for setbacks of 300 metres, the same as those established in major Amercian urban centres, including Washington State.

"It's much easier to decrease regulations is much easier than increasing the regulations later," Cabaj explained to council.

Still, he said AHS is supportive of the approach being taken by Cochrane, so far.

Town Planner II Adam Nordquist, who oversaw the bylaw's creation, says they did consider the AHS framework when developing the proposed bylaw but it's been designed to cater to Cochrane's retail realities."

With setbacks established in the proposed bylaw, there is the potential of three to five outlets in downtown Cochrane.

The bylaw also incorporates existing town regulations for the production and distribution of medical-use cannabis

The bylaw goes for second and third reading at the May 28 council meeting. 

Economic Development manager Mike Korman says they are aware of three companies who have contacted the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission with an interest establishing retail operations in Cochrane. The town process will follow at some point and applicants would be working directly with the town's planning department to pursue development permits.

A revised business license bylaw is also currently before council (see upcoming story) and it does not propose a separate or distinct business license fee for cannabis retail stores.

Public Consumption of Cannabis

The town is currently researching how the town smoking bylaw should be altered to govern the smoking or vaporing of cannabis in public.

Jaylene Knight, Legislative Services manager, explained to council they are researching what other municipalities have or are considering putting into place. They are also taking into consideration recommendations of AHS.

That, in combination with an upcoming public engagement, will help shape the proposal bylaw to be considered by council in June. Public consultation is expected to take a month and start in mid-May. 

The City of Calgary has passed a bylaw restricting the consumption of cannabis in any public place once the substance is legalized. The City of Edmonton is weighing three options that range from a full ban to allowing some public consumption. AHS recommends banning consumption in public places.

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