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Banff contemplating pot store options

Cathy Ellis BANFF – The Town of Banff is investigating options for a fair system to process applications for retailers wanting to open cannabis stores, including first-come, first-served or a lottery system.
In January 2017, Canna Clinic, located in Banff, was raided by the RCMP for allegedly selling marijuana over the counter.
In January 2017, Canna Clinic, located in Banff, was raided by the RCMP for allegedly selling marijuana over the counter.

Cathy Ellis

BANFF – The Town of Banff is investigating options for a fair system to process applications for retailers wanting to open cannabis stores, including first-come, first-served or a lottery system.

Administration is anticipating many applications seeking to open pot stores based on inquiries they’ve been getting and, although Banff is not setting a hard cap, separation distances proposed in a new bylaw would essentially establish a limit.

Dave Michaels, a development planner for the Town of Banff, said administration is considering options for a process to receive applications that would allow a fair system for processing applications, should multiple applications be received.

“It could be first-come, first-served or, if we receive multiple applications, we could do a lottery,” said Michaels. “We’re still not sure.”

The proposed bylaw 421, which would amend the land use bylaw to set the legislative framework for storefront cannabis retail in Banff, passed first reading Monday (July 16) and goes to a public hearing on Aug. 20.

Along with the provincial separation of 100 metres of a cannabis retail store to a school or health care facility, the bylaw proposes a 100-metre distance from a daycare or playground as an additional requirement.

The bylaw also proposes 100 metres between each cannabis retail store.

In addition to the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission’s location specific requirements, the proposed bylaw would prohibit cannabis retail within a location where street facing windows front onto a pedestrian sidewalk or public right-of-way.

With that, the only location that would not be permitted would be street level stores facing the sidewalk. Basements and second storey locations would likely be OK, as would street level with no windows, such as within malls.

Council had earlier asked for information for potential separation distances between cannabis stores and community centres, which would essentially mean churches, the Scout Hall, seniors centre and library and Banff-Canmore Community Foundation.

“As you see, working backwards from the 100 metres, because lots of these uses are pretty close to downtown, they could severely impact the ability to have cannabis retail,” said Michaels.

“At the last meeting there were concerns you heard from the RCMP and Alberta Health Services that if access to legal recreational cannabis was limited in town, it could lead to other non-legal avenues for this.”

A lottery system is not to new to Banff. Commercial development has been through a lottery system since the late 1990s and, while it hasn’t happened yet, a lottery would be used if the bed and breakfast quota were reached.

Recreational pot use becomes legal in Canada on Oct. 17; however, smoking and vaping will be banned in public spaces in Banff, restricted to only private residences and properties.

In U.S. states where retail cannabis sales have been made legal and in Canadian municipalities that have either allowed cannabis dispensaries or have drafted legislation ahead of legalization, the approach to the location of retail outlets is varied.

This ranges from not allowing cannabis retail stores (Vail, Colorado) to only allowing cannabis retail stores in industrial zones (Breckenridge, Colorado), to allowing cannabis retail stores anywhere general retail is allowed (Squamish, B.C).

Municipalities across Canada are contemplating if limits to the total number of retailers should be imposed to reduce the impacts a proliferation of pot stores – the so-called Green Mile – could have on the diversity of business or experience for shoppers.

Some municipalities have done this by placing a limit on the total number of cannabis retail stores allowed. Nelson, B.C. has limited the number of pot stores to six in total.

Other municipalities have used spatial separation between cannabis retail stores or a reduction in the total number of establishments allowed in a commercial area as a limiting factor to ensure that clustering of businesses does not occur.