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Cannabis land use bylaw passes by slim vote

Posted on October 3, 2018 by Taber Times

By Trevor Busch
Taber Times

With less than a fortnight remaining before marijuana is legalized, town council has finalized its cannabis land use amendments in a 4-3 split vote.

On Sept. 10, town council passed first reading of Cannabis Land Use Amendment Bylaw 17-2018 in a 5-2 vote. In mid-July, the town’s initial effort at a cannabis land use amendment bylaw was shot down by town council at second reading in a 3-3 tie vote after a clash of opposing views on separation distances, leading the town back to the drawing board.

At least one councillor still had strong reservations about the implications of the amendments, and lashed out at legalization as a short-sighted cash grab that will add another vice to Canadian society.

“This is not about legalizing cannabis, this is about the commercialization of THC,” said Coun. Joe Strojwas at town council’s Sept. 24 regular meeting. “THC is a totally different product, and we’ve been going down a road for some time where we’ve allowed alcohol, we’ve allowed gambling, and we’re adding one more vice to the world. I cannot support this resolution.”

Under Bylaw 17-2018, cannabis retail sales are proposed as a discretionary use in the downtown commercial and comprehensive commercial districts, but not within 100 metres of any school or hospital use. Applications will require the approval of the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC), but there will be no discretion for the MPC to grant variances to establish separation distances.

More specifically, separation distances would include hospitals, post-secondary schools, private schools, elementary schools and secondary schools.

Cannabis production and distribution is also proposed as a permitted use in the Medium Industrial District (M-2). The MPC can also direct specific design requirements or measures, including facade design, lighting, signage, screening measures, building orientation and access, and measures to prevent nuisances such as odor.

On Sept. 10, administration would propose allowing cannabis production and distribution as a permitted use in the industrial districts to allow council control over the use, and to direct administration to treat production and distribution of cannabis in a manner similar to any agricultural distribution use. This would be in keeping with “discussions relating to promotion of the industry.”

Following discussion on Sept. 24, council voted 4-3 to pass third and final reading of Cannabis Land Use Amendment Bylaw 17-2018. Coun.(s) Louie Tams, Joe Strojwas and Mark Garner opposed the motion.

According to a statement from administration in the decision’s background, “ensuring that there is a process in place that will allow administration to be prepared to process applications and create an environment in town which provided legal businesses to open in town and provide increased taxes and jobs for residents.”

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