City takes recreational cannabis questions to the street in public survey
With federal legislation on regulating recreational cannabis forthcoming later this year the City of Grand Forks is looking to public opinion to help craft its own legal rules in order to tend to matters on the home front.
The city will be undertaking a public campaign to prepare legislation on manufacturing, sales and consumption of cannabis in Grand Forks, with the final draft expected by mid summer.
A total of seven bylaws will be amended in order to reflect what Grand Fork residents feel and believe in the municipal realm of recreational cannabis.
The survey will focus on the key questions left open to municipalities to regulate — where production and retail businesses may operate, and where cannabis may be publicly consumed. Specific input will be soughtn to guide the language in the bylaws.
City council recently approved the process to solicit public opinion, reserving discussion of the expected changes for a later date.
“The overall approach to the regulation will be discussed during the amendment of the bylaws and the specific changes to them,” said City deputy manager of operations and sustainability, Cavan Gates.
The federal government will be legalizing the recreational consumption of cannabis by July 2018 — regulating the production of cannabis — with the respective provinces overseeing its distribution and retailing.
However, there will be room for the multitude of municipalities across the country to regulate some aspects of recreational cannabis, including manufacturing, sales and consumption.
“Once we fully understand what we are allowed to do, the survey will be based on that,” said Gates.
In order for Grand Forks to get its legal house set to govern those areas the city will be consulting its residents to gather any amendments it might make to the Official Community Plan, Zoning Bylaw, Parks Access Bylaw, Business Licencing Bylaw, Fees and Charges Bylaw,
Planning Procedures Bylaw and a new Smoking Bylaw by the end of June.
Because of the “emotional nature of cannabis legalization,” it was proposed that a public outreach campaign — that includes a survey, open house and public hearing — explain the changes to residents, and allow for them to give feedback prior to the adoption of the changes.
“The bylaws are the tools that prescribe the implementation of cannabis legalization within the city’s jurisdiction,” said Gates in his report to council. Coun. Beverley Tripp wondered how the survey would be administered.
“Would it be items going out to homes, online media, through the newspaper?” she asked.
The idea would be mass advertising, said Gates, through various online channels and in print, however the city is able to get the word out.
“The ideal for receiving (responses) back would be through an online survey, simply because it saves time in tabulating the results,” he
But the city would also accept paper copies.
The survey is still in draft form and it is expected that once it hits electronic media results would be returned within two weeks.
“A longer time frame means people might not answer it,” Gates suggested.
He noted that two goals of the survey would be to see where people would like the retail cannabis premises located and restricted, as well as where would people like to see public consumption allowed, if at all.
“I think the public will want to be consulted on this particular issue,” said Coun. Christine Thompson.
Other communities are dealing with legislation around recreational cannabis, said Coun. Colleen Ross, and are doing a good job of it.
“Are we looking at what is going on across Canada, in other towns and cities of our size, and how they are going to manage it, or are we just re-inventing the wheel because we are so unique and we need special laws?” she asked.
She called on the City to ultimately work collectively with other municipalities across the province to determine what was best and have some consistency, rather than for the City to go it alone.
“We are not going to be re-creating the wheel here,” she said.
Bylaw scope and question
The city will be dealing with seven bylaws relating to cannabis, with a major question pertaining to each one.
- Official Community Plan: Where retail cannabis businesses may operate;
- Zoning Bylaw: Where retail cannabis businesses may operate;
- Parks Access Bylaw: Where cannabis may be publicly consumed;
- Business License Bylaw: How cannabis businesses may operate;
- Fees and Charges Bylaw: How much to charge for the city’s regulatory services;
- Planning Procedures Bylaw: How much to charge for the city’s regulatory services;
- Smoking Bylaw: Where tobacco and cannabis may be publicly consumed.