Pot bylaw may not be needed

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A city bylaw governing cannabis use in public may not be needed, according to the head of a city council committee who said before last fall’s legalization that local rules should be developed.

Now, considering an absence of complaints from the public, Coun. Julie Friesen tells the News that the city was adequately prepared and provincial guidelines that became the default in Medicine Hat are working.

“We’re not experiencing any of the things we maybe were expecting,” Friesen said Monday. “I think it’s fair to say that we may not need to bring in a bylaw.”

Pot became legal to buy and posses about four months ago, and local authorities have reported little trouble related to the recreational use of the once banned substance.

Friesen likened the situation to the year 2000 change over for computer systems, which produced much worry, but few of the predicted problems in the end.

“It’s been very smooth,” said Friesen, who added that could change when warmer weather brings Hatters outdoors this spring and conflicts could arise.

“We do have the (ability to pass) a bylaw ready if there’s a need.”

A majority of council members argued last fall that a localized bylaw, developed with local community standards in mind, should be in place. However, a failure to pass the local bylaw meant that provincial minimums relating to distances from doorways, parks and building became the local enforcement standard.

At about that time, council defeated a bylaw proposed by staff saying they had wished the province had taken a harder stance but they wanted more time to see how the roll-out of legal cannabis played out.

The local proposal was developed over the course of the year as city administrators also wrote zoning rules for the sale of the substance.

The final piece, a public consumption bylaw, was defeated in when councillors said they were split on the particulars in the proposal and it was unanimously rejected.

Considering the tight timeline before a legalization date that month, council members supported a localized bylaw should be developed after more time was needed to study.

At the time several council members, including Friesen, said they didn’t predict “a wild west” as the decades old prohibition was lifted, but many in the community had legitimate concerns about public behaviour, conflicts between neighbours or bar and restaurant parking lots filling with marijuana smokers.

Stores stalled

The number of cannabis retailers in Medicine Hat remains at three despite more being approved by municipal planners and a small batch of new licenses being released by provincial regulators.

A trio of local outlets were ready with recreational adult use of cannabis was decriminalized in October, but the total number of store licenses in Alberta was halted at 65 later in the fall as the Alberta Gaming Liqour and Cannabis Commission dealt with supply issues.

As the supply constraints eased in late January, 10 more licenses were granted, but none in Medicine Hat or Southeast Alberta.

In early January, the AGLC stated that in early January active applications based in Medicine Hat numbered 15, with another two in Redcliff and three in Brooks.

The first cannabis shop in Brooks opened in mid-November. The Town of Redcliff has been considering several applications since the late summer.

City of Swift Current was set to debate on Monday a proposal for one of the two cannabis licenses for the city that were granted by provincial regulators in Saskatchewan.

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