Pubdate: Sat, 24 Jun 2017
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Paula Simons
Page: A2


Denyse Doran is what you might call a pot pro.

For more than 20 years, she and her family have owned and operated the
Jupiter Cannabis Shop on Whyte Avenue. The business has been so
successful, they've franchised, with five shops now around Edmonton,
and others in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. At the moment, they
sell primarily marijuana "paraphernalia" - pipes, vaporizers, rolling
papers, grinders, and such. But no actual cannabis.

"If I sold pot, I'd be in jail," she laughs. "We're in this weird
in-between period."

The federal government is set to legalize cannabis sales next year.
The federal, provincial and municipal governments are all working on
regulatory regimes. But for now? Doran has to wait before she can
actually sell her core product.

The suspense isn't easy as Doran waits to find out exactly how pot
will be sold. In government-owned stores, patterned on the old
government liquor stores? In giant pharmacies like Shoppers Drug Mart?
In Costco and Walmart, next to the bananas?

Doran knows the model she'd prefer - one that favours small
independent shops like hers.

"The government has to be careful," she said. "They have to get this
right. If they don't the black market will continue. I think that
small shops will have better knowledge, better product, better control."

But Doran isn't the only one hanging fire, waiting for government

Municipalities are in a chicken-and-egg quandary. Ottawa has written
its legislation - it's left many administrative questions unanswered.
And the province is still in the midst of its planning, still running
a survey of Albertans to ask them for input on how to manage the sale
of cannabis.

City council doesn't yet know what those provincial rules are going to
be. But they can't simply wait to find out - they have to have zoning
ordinances already in effect on the day marijuana becomes legal, or
run the risk of businesses sprouting up willy-nilly.

As David Hales, the city's branch manager for development services,
concedes, planning ahead in a legal vacuum isn't easy.

"We don't know a lot of the questions, let alone the

Still, the city has come up with a draft zoning bylaw, to be debated
at a public hearing on June 28.

Under the bylaw, no one would be allowed to sell cannabis from their
homes, or from a bed and breakfast. Nightclubs, bars, neighbourhood
pubs and private social clubs wouldn't be allowed to serve or sell
cannabis, either. Neither will neighbourhood convenience stores. Nor
will general retail stores, like Safeway or London Drugs. Oh, and
local garden centres and greenhouses won't be allowed to sell pot
plants next to the begonias and tomatoes.

Instead, the city proposes to define two brand-new kinds of zoning
within city limits.

First, it will create a special category for cannabis retail sales -
specialty stores that sell cannabis products, pursuant to federal and
provincial law.

The city also proposes to zone and licence "cannabis lounges," where
people could go to consume cannabis products of various descriptions,
on-site. This, notes the city report, could be especially important to
appeal to tourists.

How, exactly, would cannabis lounges work? Would people be allowed to
smoke there? That would seem illogical in a city where cigarette
smoking is banned in all bars, clubs, and restaurants. Would a
cannabis lounge have to have a certain number of parking spaces? Could
it also sell food, like pizza and cookies? Would it have the same
closing time as a bar?

Hales doesn't have the answers. Not yet.

"We are very simple creatures here in the zoning department," he
chuckles dryly. "We regulate land use, not behaviour."

But it's not easy to un-twine the two, especially when you're talking
about a place that sells a product that influences behaviour. Future
neighbours may react differently to the opening of a cannabis lounge
than a ramen shop.

How far should cannabis shops be from schools? Day cares? Playgrounds?
Should the number of them on a street or in a neighbourhood be capped?
This bylaw doesn't say.

Doran has her own questions about cannabis lounges, particularly if
they sell edibles, which, she says, are difficult to regulate for
potency. And she worries that if such lounges allow toking, not just
vaping, it could provoke a backlash from cigarette smokers generally.
But mostly, she's glad to hear that city council is hosting a public
hearing to give people a chance to share their perspectives and concerns.

"I'll definitely be there," she says.
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