Cannabis legalization – What you need to know

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Public Consumption of Cannabis

The sale and consumption of cannabis became officially legal in Canada on Wednesday, October 17. In response to legalization, the Town developed and passed a new bylaw (Cannabis Consumption Bylaw 4554-2018) that regulates public consumption within High River.

Prior to passing the bylaw, the Town asked for the public’s input on how they would like to see cannabis consumption regulated in public places. Overwhelmingly, residents and stakeholders wanted to see all public consumption of cannabis prohibited in High River.

The information collected through public engagement was compiled and presented to Council for their consideration with a first draft of the Cannabis Consumption Bylaw. There was also a Public Hearing on October 9, where Council heard final public concerns and then completed the final readings of the bylaw.

Taking all the feedback into account, High River’s new Cannabis Consumption Bylaw prohibits all public consumption of recreational cannabis. This means that cannabis for recreational purposes cannot be smoked or otherwise consumed in any public areas including parks, pathways, playgrounds, sports fields, etc. Exemptions for the medical use of cannabis in public areas have been put into place within the bylaw.

The bylaw will only permit consumption of cannabis on private property with permission of the owner of that property. The associated penalty for violating the bylaw is a fine of $250-$500.

For more information, please visit highriver.ca/cannabis.

Cannabis-Related Businesses

In May 2018, amendments to the Town’s Land Use Bylaw regulating cannabis-related businesses, including retail stores, growing and processing facilities and cannabis counselling clinics within High River were approved by Council.

Within the Land Use Bylaw, appropriate definitions were created to distinguish retail and production operations and identify appropriate zoning designations, as well as specify separation distances from sensitive land uses such as school, early childhood programs, public parks, the hospital, and residential areas.

The Town started accepting applications for cannabis-related businesses soon after the bylaw was passed and began issuing development permits to approved applicants in preparation for October 17. To date, there are six approved cannabis-related businesses in High River, two of the approved businesses currently have occupancy and the others are under construction, but the businesses will not be open to the public until they are inspected by the Alberta Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Commission (AGLC).

To view the amended Land Use Bylaw, including a map of the proposed cannabis retail/business spaces, visit highriver.ca/cannabis.

Updated Smoking Bylaw

While creating new bylaws regarding cannabis, the Town also decided to rescind and rewrite the Smoking Bylaw, which had not been updated in fifteen years.

Since the last update, electronic smoking devices (vape and e-cigarettes) have evolved and modified the definition of “smoking” to include products that may or may not contain tobacco. Over the past decade, public education regarding the health effects of smoking and second-hand smoke has increased significantly, as has the general awareness of the potential health risks that may be associated with smoking and second-hand smoke.

As a result, the Town has increased the prohibition of smoking in areas where children are present, including playgrounds, the spray park, sport fields and surfaces, the skate and bike parks, and other similar child and fitness focused facilities.

Copies of all three new bylaws, and all other governing Town bylaws, will soon be available on the Town’s website at highriver.ca/bylaws-and-policies.

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