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Update: June 18th Cannabis Bylaws

On Monday night Council had an eventful meeting. Following is what you need to know.

General Business

We got to see a bunch of local kids presented with prizes for the Municipal Government Day Art Contest. A big "congratulations!" to all the winners and "thanks!" to all the prize sponsors.

We heard from Inter Pipeline, a company based out of Calgary which is building a plant near Fort Saskatchewan. Fifty modules for it are being built here in Grande Prairie. Representatives told us about the local economic impact and what to expect when these modules are transported through our City.

Council dealt with a few appointments. We put Don Mpunga and Rory Tarant on the Combative Sports Commission. We also expressed our consent to having Andy Fraser, Rob Mackin, and Lionel Laflamme appointed to the Aquatera Board of Directors (they were subsequently voted in at a Tuesday afternoon Shareholders' Meeting).

Tobacco and Smoking Bylaws

We heard from Action on Smoking and Health asking us to put the same restrictions on all smoking as we put on cannabis consumption. Many Councillors seemed to support this idea, but the majority (including me) felt that the public has a right to weigh in before changes are made. This got referred to a standing committee for discussion. I suspect it will be back before Council in the fall. I currently intend to support further restrictions.

Cannabis Discussion

The big business of the night was cannabis. Twelve delegations presented their views. They were diverse groups which included potential retailers and producers, citizens supportive of a liberal approach to legalization, citizens asking for a cautious approach, and citizens adamantly opposed to legalization.

Then Council got into bylaw debate- all four bylaws before us were passed.

I was disappointed in the outcomes of a few votes. That being said, I certainly understand where my colleagues are coming from. I was impressed by the thought members of Council put into this and I am proud of all the work staff have undertaken to prepare us.

While there are a few changes I would've loved to see, I do think that Council has adopted a reasonable approach to cannabis. I think we are going to see a minimum amount of social costs to legalization while capitalizing on some of the benefits.

I also think that we are going to need to re-examine our bylaws and policies as we go. Every community in the country will take a slightly different approach. We need to be open and humble enough to learn from other jurisdictions and to change our approach when necessary.

Following is a summary of where regulations sit today. The points in bold are provisions which got changed by Council on Monday night.

Locations for Cannabis Businesses

Highlights of Provincial and Federal Regulation

  • Requirements for securing facilities include alarms, video surveillance, and very strong storage areas in retail locations
  • 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 cannot sell alcohol, tobacco, or pharmaceuticals
  • Cannabis consumption is banned on the premises of a retailer


Highlights of Additional City Regulations

  • Cannabis Retail Stores listed as Discretionary Use with City staff having approval authority in Central Commercial, General Commercial, Arterial Commercial, Industrial Business, and General Industrial districts.
  • Cannabis Retails stores listed as Discretionary Use with Council's Infrastructure & Protective Services Committee having approval authority in Local Commercial and Commercial Transition districts.
  • Set the following buffers between Cannabis Retail Stores and other Land Uses:
    • Elementary Schools: 150m
    • 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
  • 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
  • Cannabis retailers may only be open from 10am - 2am


Highlights of Additional City Regulations

  • A maximum of 15 retail licenses will be granted. A maximum of one per corporate entity will be granted. Who gets to have their application accepted first will be based on a lottery system.
  • Retailers must provide the City with quarterly 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 $2500
  • Limit Cannabis Retail Store hours to 10:00am - 12:00am

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 Additional City Regulation

A municipal Cannabis Production Permit will be required for home cultivation.


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 Additional City Regulation

Consumption prohibited:

  • in any area or place that smoking is prohibited by provincial law, municipal law, or a public sign
  • on 101 Ave or 100 Ave between 102 St & 98 St (ie: on our main streets downtown).
  • within a 30m 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
    • the entrance to a movie theatre
  • in a manner and/or proximity that is adversely affecting another person

Status of Federal and Provincial Laws

On Tuesday night, the Senate passed the Cannabis Legalization Bill. This was the last political roadblock. The federal government should be announcing with confidence the date of legalization this week. Indications are that it will be September 1, but the government may choose a different implementation speed.

My understanding is that our provincial framework is largely completed. One notable aspect absent in it: revenue sharing with municipalities.

The federal government is giving 75% or more of all excise taxes to provinces with the expressed intention that it be shared with municipalities. Additionally, in Alberta the government stands to create more revenue as it will hold a monopoly on wholesale and online sales. Several province's have already announced significant funding being forwarded to municipalities. Alberta has not expressed any intention to share.

I've personally asked two ministers and several senior administrators if municipalities will be given funding, and they indicated there are no plans to do so.

Municipalities are incurring direct costs due to legalization. For example, the City has had over $100,000 of staff time allocated to preparation. Additionally, municipalities are expected to mitigate any social costs and participate in public education. It is not reasonable for the province to refuse to share revenue while expecting municipalities to partner in addressing legalisation. I hope it reconsiders its position.

As always, I welcome feedback.

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

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