Pubdate: Thu, 03 Nov 2016
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2016 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Elise Stolte
Page: A1


City councillors are asking if new marijuana dispensaries should be
kept away from schools and restricted like liquor stores.

Worried about a proliferation of dispensaries and grow-ops when Ottawa
legalizes recreational marijuana, Coun. Mike Nickel introduced a
lengthy zoning inquiry at council's planning committee Wednesday.

"We can't bury our heads in the sand any more on this . ... We need to
be proactive," Nickel said, pointing to the way marijuana dispensaries
spread in Vancouver, rivalling the number of Starbucks.

Vancouver has since restricted how close each pot shop can be to the
others, similar to how Edmonton limits liquor stores to being 500
metres from a competitor. Liquor stores here must also be 100 metres
from a school.

But drinking liquor near a store doesn't affect bystanders the same
way a cloud of pot smoke would, Nickel said: "As an intoxicant, how
are you going to deal with that?" The federal Liberals committed to
legalizing and restricting access to marijuana in their 2015 throne

They've launched a task force with cross-country meetings on how to
effectively do that.

Task force chair Anne McLellan, a former Edmonton Liberal MP, met with
an Edmonton committee focused on managing changes to marijuana
legislation recently, said Jan Fox, executive director for the crime
and safety-focused organization REACH Edmonton.

She expects to see more grow-ops and dispensaries in Edmonton when the
legislation changes, but was relieved to hear McLellan say no changes
will be brought in until everyone is ready.

"It needs to be regulated," said Fox, worried about children getting
hold of infused gummy bears and of impaired drivers.

Police, real estate representatives, and utility and city zoning
experts also sit with REACH on the marijuana-focused committee.

In residential neighbourhoods, grow-ops have been associated with
higher crime and cause safety issues resulting from humidity and mould.

"Our police services already are inundated with this stuff," said
Coun. Dave Loken, who also sits on the committee.

"We need a lot more support from the federal government as well," he
said, calling for more inspectors for the growing and processing
facilities Health Canada already licensed.

Nickel's inquiry asks the city to outline all the expected impacts,
along with changes needed to Edmonton's zoning, business licence and
other bylaws.

It was prompted by a new clinic, Marijuana for Trauma, that opened
recently in his ward, but is not allowed to dispense the product.

"How far should they be away from schools, how far should they be away
from neighbourhoods? It's kind of a wide open set of questions we need
to be prepared to debate," said Coun. Michael Walters, supporting
Nickel's inquiry.

Ruled out of order because it would come back the wrong committee, it
will be reintroduced and voted on as a motion at council Tuesday.
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