Morinville Council approves Land Use Bylaw amendments to allow for cannabis sales

by Tristan Turner

Morinville will be ready for the legalization of marijuana later this year with new Land Use Bylaw changes that would allow for the sale of cannabis in Morinville. While legalization is widely expected to take place following the royal assent of new federal law, each province and municipality will be required to establish their own rules and limits concerning various elements of marijuana control. Municipalities have it within their power to prevent marijuana dispensaries from opening within community limits as part of their respective Land Use or other Bylaws, though Morinville has now opted to proceed with allowing sales in town.

The unanimous vote to pass Bylaw 3/2018 came following a short public hearing with two speakers from the public. First was a resident who hoped to get some clarity on the establishment of an informational cannabis business, and another who was interested in “investing and creating jobs in our community” by establishing a plant cloning/growing operation within town. There was also one written submission for the public hearing.

After council moved to debate the motion itself, Deputy Mayor Dafoe moved Second Reading. Initially, there was some confusion from some members of council after Councillors Hall, Richardson and Boutestein pointed out confusion with a clause that stipulated that cannabis distribution businesses cannot be within 100 meters of a school or provincial healthcare facility.
Councillor Boutestein was concerned about whether the law meant that it had to be 100 meters from the exterior wall of the building, or from the boundary of the plot of land from each respective site. Director of Planning and Economic Development Schaun Goodeve clarified that in the legislation it stipulates the 100 meters is from the exterior of the cannabis sales store to the boundary of the land of the provincial health care facility or school.

After some discussion, including Deputy Mayor Dafoe locating the Alberta government’s definition of ‘provincial health care facility’, most of these concerns were assuaged. According to Dafoe and Goodeve’s research at that meeting, ‘provincial healthcare facilities’ appeared to only apply to hospitals or similar buildings, with no such facilities listed in Morinville.
Following this clarification, Councillor Boutestein withdrew a motion to differ a vote on the motion to get further clarification and noted her support. Second reading swiftly passed unanimously, and Councillor Boutestein moved third reading, which also passed unanimously without debate.

Morinville will be one of the first few communities in the province to move ahead with a framework for allowing the distribution of marijuana ahead of legalization later this year. People who wish to open a marijuana business in Morinville will still have a long road ahead of them, however, including acquiring a license from the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Corporation (AGLC) and other provincial and federal inspections/regulations.

Goodeve clarified that evening that businesses could get their development permits approved through the bylaw and move ahead with installing shelving, equipment and security supplies (including a safe) ahead of legalization, and be ready in time for the changeover. Goodeve also stressed that of course no business (even if approved under that bylaw and the AGLC) could sell any cannabis products until legalization became official under federal law.

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