page contents Vote Dylan Bressey, candidate for Grande Prairie City Council. Election 2017. page contents

Cannabis Regulation

This summer, recreational sale and consumption of cannabis will be legalized. Council needs to figure out how this will be regulated in Grande Prairie. Administration has brought forward a series of recommendations. You can click here to read these suggestions, background information, and the results of the City's Online Feedback Survey. I'd strongly encourage you to checkout this information for yourself.

Below is my summary of our process to discuss regulation, the recommendations being made, and my current approach. As always, any opinions or mistakes expressed here belong to me, not to our staff or to the rest of Council.

Also, if this is your first time on my website: thanks for checking it out! I love to hear feedback before Council debates and votes on issues. To help with this, I post agenda summaries before every City Council meeting. To keep on following what we are doing, checkout www.bressey.ca/meetings.


The City's Process


The City has had a multi-disciplinary team of staff working on cannabis legalization for months. It includes representatives from Planning, the RCMP, Economic Development, Bylaw, Community Social Development, and other City departments. This team has been in consultation with other community stakeholders (school boards, Alberta Health Services, the Chamber of Commerce, local non-profits, etc...) and has been visiting jurisdictions where cannabis is already legalized. It has gained great knowledge and put in a tremendous level of work.

Council has been working with this team for a few months. In March, there was also an online survey sent out for the public to share its views. Based on its conversations with Council, key stakeholders, and the public, City administration is making a series of recommendations. These will be presented and publicly debated at the Infrastructure and Protective Services Committee (9am on Tuesday in City Hall). Administration will take the changes committee directs and write them into draft bylaw amendments. The current target is to have these bylaws presented, debated, and voted on at the May 22 City Council meeting.

Following is what is being recommended. I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts as I form my positions on this.


Regulations for Cannabis Businesses

Highlights of Provincial and Federal Regulation

  • Requirements for securing facilities including alarms, video surveillance, and very strong storage areas
  • Prohibition of minors, even when accompanied by adults
  • Store interiors cannot be visible from the street
  • Signage cannot promote sale to minors, intoxication, health effects, sports, or cultural events
  • Retailers can only purchase cannabis from the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC)
  • 100m buffer between cannabis retailers and schools and provincial health care facilities
  • Cannabis retailers may only be open from 10am - 2am
  • Cannabis retailers cannot sell alcohol, tobacco, or pharmaceuticals

 

Highlights of Administration's Recommendations for Additional City Regulation

  • Only allow retail locations in the green areas indicated on the map below (click here for a full size .pdf)
  • Set the following buffers between Cannabis Retail Stores and other Land Uses:
    • Elementary Schools: 100m
    • High Schools: 300m
    • Provincial Health Care Facilities: 100m
    • Addiction Treatment Facilities: 100m
    • Liquor Stores: 10m
  • A limit of 3 Cannabis Retail Stores in any 360m radius
  • In the Central Commercial District (ie: downtown), have a minimum separation distance of 180m between stores facing the same street
  • Limit Cannabis Retail Store hours to 10:00am - 12:00am
  • Set a 200m buffer between Cannabis Production and Distribution Facilities and the following
    • Residential Land Use Districts
    • Schools
    • Addiction Treatment Facilities
  • Require Cannabis Production and Distribution Facilities to install air filtration systems to minimize odor impacts on adjacent properties

Cannabis Business Licensing

Highlights of Provincial and Federal Regulation

  • All cannabis business locations require licenses and strict oversite by the AGLC
  • Mandatory background checks for owners and workers. No licenses given to applicants linked to organized crime or drug crimes
  • All staff must take a 4-6 hour AGLC course
  • Sales data must be reported to the AGLC monthly

 

Highlights of Administration's Recommendations for Additional City Regulation

  • Retailers must provide the City with monthly reports on their volume of cannabis sales
  • Cannabis Production and Distribution Facilities must pay the City a licensing fee of $500
  • Cannabis Retail Stores must pay the City a licensing fee of $5000

Personal (ie: at home) Cultivation

Highlights of Provincial and Federal Regulations

  • A limit of four plants per residence
  • Prohibition on dangerous manufacturing proccesses
  • Reasonable measures taken to prevent theft and youth access

 

Highlights of Administration's Recommendations for Additional City Regulation

Administration recommends that we require residents to obtain a permit to undertake personal cultivation. This permit would be free or very low cost and would contain no requirements not already found in federal and provincial legislation. Its intent would be to allow the City to collect data on personal cultivation and to help ensure that residents wishing to cultivate are aware of federal and provincial rules.


Consumption

Highlights of Federal and Provincial Regulation

Consumption prohibited:

  • in vehicles
  • inside cannabis retail outlets
  • on school or hospital properties
  • within 4m of skate parks, outdoor pools, spray parks, and playgrounds

 

Highlights of Administration's Recommendations for Additional City Regulation

Prohibit consumption:

  • in any area or place that smoking is prohibited by provincial law, municipal law, or a public sign
  • within a 10m of the following
    • recreation facilities
    • public parks
    • parades
    • outdoor special events unless in a defined area specifically set aside for cannabis use by the event organizer
    • where children are playing or congregating
  • in a manner and/or proximity that is adversely affecting another person

Tax Revenue

The Federal government has announced a ~10% tax on retail sales of cannabis. It will retain 25% of this tax up to a maximum of $100 million while distributing the remainder to provinces and territories. In its budget, the federal government said "it is [our] expectation that a substantial portion of the revenues from this tax provided to provinces and territories will be transferred to municipalities and local communities, who are on the front lines of legalization."

Municipalities do have costs to legalization. For example, we have already spent hundreds of staff hours creating draft bylaws. Right now, we have no way to directly recover these costs other than through business license fees.

So far, the provincial government has announced no plans to share revenue with muncipalities. This is despite the fact that it will generate substantial proceeds. The province will receive over 7.5% of revenue from Alberta retail stores in the form of taxes. It will likely take additional profit from retailers by marking up AGLC sales (the AGLC will have a wholesale monopoly). The provincial government also stands to profit since it will be the sole online retailer in Alberta.

The City is currently advocating to the Government of Alberta to share a portion of its cannabis excise tax. I fully support this- the City absolutely should be given a substantial share of cannabis revenue generated within it.
 


What I Currently Think

When it comes to specific regulations, I am still forming my opinions. Until Council is closer to voting on potential bylaws, I am doing my best to listen, read, and discuss with an open mind.

That being said, I currently have the following general thoughts on cannabis and municipal rules:

Whether we are all for it or staunchly opposed, cannabis is being legalized. Council needs to do its best to maximize the benefits and minimize the social negatives of legalization. The biggest negatives I have heard concerns about:

  • youth use of cannabis
  • nuisance odours
  • workplace and motor vehicle safety and public health outcomes
  • crime and other undesirable behaviour surrounding cannabis businesses

Based on my research of the effects of legalization in other jurisdictions, I do not think we are going to see a big uptake in problem behaviour in areas surrounding cannabis businesses. Other municipalities have not experienced this, and our province is mandating stringent security requirements.

I do share some concerns about safety and public health outcomes. However, municipalities are limited in how they can address these through regulation. They are largely provincial and federal responsabilities.

I am sure that there will be some people who have problems with neighbours or other members of the public due to odours. However, this is not new- the City already receives noise and smell complaints generated by many different activities.

My biggest concern with cannabis legalization is minimizing youth usage. From research I have accessed and from my anecdotal experience based on a career of youth work, I think that cannabis use has a negative impact on some developing brains. Whether legalization will have a net increase or decrease on youth use is up for debate. However, the biggest force it will introduce to combat youth use is competition with the black market. I want as much market demand as possible to be met through legitimate retail locations. This will hopefully starve the black market and make youth access more difficult. For this reason, I do not want to be overly restrictive with our retail regulations.

I also don't want to be overly restrictive with consumption rules. The municipality can only regulate recreational users, not medical users. Additionally, we know from current experience that prohibition does not eliminate use. I do want some limits on public use, but I also hope that most cannabis users will voluntarily abide by them. This means that any regulations we create cannot be overly restrictive.

Finally, I do not want to drive cannabis businesses to just outside of City limits due to higher regulation in our boundaries. This would prevent the City from generating revenue while still having to deal with any social costs introduced. Even more importantly, it would mean that the City would lose all influence over cannabis operations in our community.

I'm still forming my opinions about what specific regulations the City should create. I hope that we see minimal social consequences from legalization. I also hope that those who do not partake see little to no changes in our community once cannabis is legalized. To help with this, the City should retain some control over cannabis business and use. However, it seems to me that we are most likely to maximize our influence by limiting our legal control. At this time, I favour light municipal regulation.


Feedback Wanted

I'd absolutely love your feedback. Please let me know what you think. Do you favour a light or a heavy approach to municipal regulation? Are the recommendations being made close or far off from what you want to see? How would you change them?

You can post a comment here, send me an email (dbressey@cityofgp.com), give me a call (780-402-4166) or find me on Facebook (I'd prefer you interact with my Council page rather than my personal wall- click here for my page).

Thanks for reading!

-Dylan