Pubdate: Sat, 23 Dec 2017
Source: Medicine Hat News (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Alberta Newspaper Group, Inc.
Author: Collin Gallant
Page: A5


The City of Medicine Hat is preparing for the Canada-wide legalization
of marijuana in 2018, but in the absence of final rules from other
levels of government, local regulations remain a work in progress,
officials said this week.

"It is a big cumbersome process, and we're on track to be ready for
July, but we'll see a lot of activity in the next six months,"
commissioner Stan Schwartzenberger told Wednesday's meeting of the
development and infrastructure committee.

A working group of city managers from several divisions are
co-ordinating how the city will regulate the new legal business, as
well as possibly restrict its use.

Also, community consultations in early 2018 will determine whether the
city should set local standards higher than minimum requirements laid
down by the province or Ottawa.

That means shops could be allowed only in certain zoning, or pushed
far away from schools or residential areas.

"We do have the ability to layer on (more regulations)," said planning
general manager Kent Snyder, though noting that the city cannot
outright ban the industry.

"(Public feedback) we believe will be very polarized, and middle
ground might be hard to find."

Committee chair Coun. Robert Dumanowski said he disagrees morally with
the move to legalize marijuana by Ottawa, but the city needs to put
restrictions in place that are in line with community sentiment.

"I resent that we've been put in this position with a very difficult
timeline," he said, adding that not knowing federal plans makes it
difficult to set local standards needed by the middle of next year.

"The intent is to do consultations and gauge the merits of different
options," said Schwartzenberger. "We're trying to figure out what's
acceptable in the community."

Coun. Jim Turner said as he understands it the licensing process at
the federal level is very complex, and there are indications the move
may be delayed.

"I can't see anyone ready to retail by July 1," he

The city planning office has received "numerous" inquiries about
marijuana business licenses, said Snyder, but has not, and legally
cannot yet issue them.

Work is proceeding on several fronts and will be dealt with by several
departments. The public services committee, for example, will deal
with whether use of the narcotic will be included in existed bylaws
that ban smoking in public parks.

This month the city's municipal planning commission introduced a bylaw
to insert several definitions into business licence categories for
cultivation, production and retailing.

That allows the city to capture marijuana retailers in a special
business class who might register early and - in absence of
pot-specific rules - be classified as general retailers.

Specific standards and setbacks, such as exist for liquor stores,
could order they be kept certain distances from schools, community
services zones or other pot shops, and could be increased from
provincial guidelines.

This fall the province outlined a proposal for public comment that
suggested an age limit of 18 for possession, and that public use would
fall in line with tobacco use, which is largely prohibited outside
private homes or in cars with children.

An Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission report on sales and retailing
is expected early in the new year.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt