Edmonton library will go to court over distance between cannabis stores and branches

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The Edmonton Public Library is challenging three decisions by the city's development appeal board allowing cannabis stores to open within 200 metres of its branches.

The Court of Appeal of Alberta has granted the city's library board leave to appeal decisions made by Edmonton's development appeal board.

The city's bylaws require a distance of at least 200 metres between a cannabis retail store and a public library.

The development appeal board has the authority to grant an exemption to that requirement under the Municipal Government Act

The library is seeking clarification around three exemptions granted by the board affecting the Abbottsfield-Penny McKee Branch, the Heritage Valley Branch and the Stanley A. Milner Library, said EPL's chief financial officer, Gastone Monai.

"EPL was concerned about the proximity of cannabis stores to the library locations in these three locations," Monai said, in an emailed statement.

"EPL is now seeking clarification from the court."

The court will hear the three matters on Oct. 7, Monai said

The board has granted over 20 exemptions to the 200-metre rule since cannabis was legalized in 2018, according to court documents.

The library is arguing the exemptions were based on an erroneous understanding of a 2014 Alberta Court of Appeal decision, known as Newcastle. 

The Newcastle case involved two liquor stores that did not respect a 500-metre-separation rule

In that decision, the Court of Appeal determined that the development appeal board had used the wrong legal test to determine whether or not the second liquor store would be allowed. 

It ordered the board to include evidence in its decision-making process that an exemption to the separation rule would not harm the neighbourhood. 

The EPL claims the board mistakenly interpreted that decision to mean that an exemption can be granted if no evidence of harm has been presented. 

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