Just one week ahead of the Oct. 17 cannabis legalization date, the Town of Blackfalds passed their Smoking and Vaping Bylaw governing cannabis, tobacco and vaping use in the community.
During their regular meeting Tuesday night, council gave second and final readings to the bylaw with unanimous approval, without further comment or debate.
Town of Blackfalds Mayor Richard Poole says council as a whole is pleased with how the bylaw came together over the course of the past several months.
“We’re very happy about it,” he said following Tuesday night’s meeting. “We’re really happy to have this off our plate and be ready for the cannabis legislation that will come (into effect) on Oct. 17.”
Council’s first look at the bylaw came during their last regular meeting. As per council notes, the town’s bylaw took many cues from surrounding municipalities, and trends in dealing with cannabis legalization.
Chief among those trends is the complete ban on public consumption of recreational cannabis anywhere in the community, falling in line with the City of Lacombe and the City of Red Deer. Consumption of both tobacco and cannabis will also be prohibited within 10 metres of any parks and playgrounds, and five metres from publicly accessible buildings.
Medical marijuana users, however, will be able to consume in public, provided they are able to produce their card proving they are using marijuana for medical purposes, and abide by the same rules and setbacks as outlined for tobacco users.
An “educational transition period” will be in effect for the next six to eight months, with local bylaw enforcement advised to use discretion and educate the public on the new Smoking and Vaping Bylaw, rather than lay charges and penalties for offences. However, when charges do begin to be laid for offences, a fine of $250 will be assessed for first offence. Repeat offenders will be issued a ticket with a summons to appear in court without opportunity to pay a fine instead, rather than have different fees for subsequent offences.
When it comes to cannabis-related businesses, however, the moratorium on permits will remain until such a time when the Town of Blackfalds has reviewed and updated the Land Use Bylaw, which is scheduled for April 2019.
“We put the moratorium on because we didn’t have regulations in place. We need to have these regulations in place before we could move forward,” Poole previously told the Globe following the last regular meeting. “We will be moving forward and we will pass bylaws and once they’re passed, the areas we have available (for cannabis related businesses) will still be there.”
However, on Tuesday, he said it was possible that changes with regards to cannabis production, retail and distribution may be made sooner.
“Right now we’re looking a a four to six month process, but we might see Planning and Development bring it back at an earlier time if they feel it should be separated from the entire Land Use Bylaw,” he said.
At present, however, recommendations from the Cannabis Community Action Committee accepted by council indicate that town will prohibit all commercial production, processing and retail from residential zones, but allow them in Industrial Light and Heavy Districts.
Retail would be allowed as discretionary use downtown (Commercial Central District) and along Hwy 2A (Commercial Highway District).
So far, Poole says he’s heard no negative feedback on the bylaw.
“We had 15 members at the open house last week. Again, there was no serious feedback or complaints,” he said.
In preparation for the Oct. 17 legalization date for cannabis, the Town of Blackfalds has put together a webpage with information on cannabis within the town, as well as links to federal and provincial legislation passed, AGLC, and sites containing facts on cannabis and more. To view, visit https://www.blackfalds.com/government/bylaws/cannabis-in-blackfalds.