Pot shops may open in Edmonton malls, city council decides

Cannabis retailers will be allowed to open stores in some Edmonton malls after council voted to amend a zoning bylaw Monday.

Existing bylaw restricted shops if malls were near hospitals, parks, libraries and schools

Cannabis stores may open in Edmonton malls if they're 100 metres from parks, recreation facilities and health centres. (CBC)

Cannabis retailers will be allowed to open stores in some Edmonton malls after city council voted to amend a zoning bylaw Monday.

After a lengthy discussion at a public hearing, council agreed to ease the restrictions on stores in malls over two hectares in size.

Under provincial law, cannabis stores must be 200 metres from public libraries and schools and 100 metres from parks, public recreation facilities and provincial health care facilities.

But the original city zoning bylaw treated shopping centres as one big site — if any side or boundary was within the 200 or 100-metre radius, it was in violation.

A cannabis retailer looking to set up within the West Edmonton Mall was denied because the boundary fell within 100 metres of the Misericordia Hospital.

Nola Kilmartin, an urban planner, spoke in front of council on behalf of development at WEM. She said the problem in the bylaw was the interpretation of "site."

"To give you a sense of one of those unintended consequences, the location of a proposed cannabis store was going to be over 900 metres away from the Misericordia and that wasn't allowed."

Under the amended bylaw, it's possible to get a development permit for a store in the mall as long as it's within provincial regulations.

Kilmartin said the mall would not allow stores near areas where children play.

Edmonton city council agreed Monday to ease restrictions on rules governing cannabis shops. (Peter Evans/CBC)

"There are a lot of different corridors and corners where it can be more obscured from, you know, Galaxyland or some of the child-focused areas."

Mayor Don Iveson was on board with easing the restriction in large malls.

"A mall is a very large site," he said. "You could be hundreds of metres away and meet the provincial test but on a technicality you don't meet the city test, so we've eased that to allow more opportunities for more competition."

Nine-month expiry

Council also discussed another rule within the bylaw that required development permits for cannabis stores to expire within nine months.

The regulation had allowed the city to issue permits before cannabis became legal Oct. 17, 2018, and would allow them to expire in nine months in case legalization didn't happen.

Since the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis commission put a hold on new applications in November, citing supply shortages, dozens of retailers in Edmonton have been left in the lurch.

Lisa Holmes, in charge of government and stakeholder relations with Fire and Flower Inc., told council Monday that some of their 15 permits were set to expire at the end of April.

"Because the AGLC is no longer issuing licenses and it costs a significant amount of money to develop all these stores, we're not able to comply with the nine-month rule," she said.  

It costs $5,600 to apply for a cannabis development permit in Edmonton.

City administration said they will allow permit holders to apply again without the fee. 

"We're getting rid of this nine-month ticking clock issue," Iveson said, "Whether someone's coming in to apply today or in the future, they won't have that rest."

AGLC said Monday it's still uncertain when the supply will be sufficient to start approving new applications.  

"As a result of the national cannabis supply shortage, AGLC has made the decision to temporarily suspend accepting applications and issuing any additional cannabis retail licences until further notice," the government agency website reads.


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