Yellowknife city council talks cannabis sales zoning by-law

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Yellowknifers are getting closer to legally buying cannabis products somewhere besides the liquor store.

At a city council meeting Monday, councillors discussed the regulatory framework for retail cannabis sales. Recreational cannabis became legal in the Northwest Territories on Oct. 17, following federal legislation, but the uptown liquor store is only retail location in the city. 

That framework could include a 100-meter buffer zone between shops selling cannabis and certain areas, such as elementary, junior and high schools, the Fieldhouse, the Yellowknife aquatic centre and arena, Stanton Hospital, medical centres, and daycares.

This map shows where cannabis could not be sold if the buffer zone is approved:

One councillor questioned the idea of buffer zones.

"Is there any reason to regulate this business separately from other businesses?" asked Julian Morse.

"I don't see that establishing a buffer zone actually protects anybody from anything that they wouldn't be protected from by prohibitions related to age restrictions."

Though Morse initially proposed scrapping the buffer zone, council decided to keep it in place for the time being while the city hears what the public thinks of the proposal.

Companies can't get a licence without it

Coun. Niels Konge questioned why a zoning bylaw was necessary at all.

The short answer: without it, the territorial government can't license a company to sell cannabis in Yellowknife.

"Prior to a licence being provided to a company, the views of the local government have to be obtained and considered," explained Nalini Naidoo, the city's director of planning and development.

"The city is now in a situation where we have to take that definition of 'cannabis retail' and … amend the zoning bylaw to put it in there. Once we've defined it in the zoning bylaw we have to say where [cannabis retail] can and can't be."

The city now wants to gather public opinion on the proposals. Public consultations began last weekend at the city's trade show, and residents can give their feedback on the city's website until June 2.

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