Saskatchewan

Regina councillor says no pot shop buffer for downtown is a 'mistake'

Regina councillors are being asked to approve a set of zoning changes to say where cannabis dispensaries will be allowed to open.

City eyes one-block gap between cannabis dispensaries and schools — except downtown

Ward 2 Coun. Bob Hawkins says the point of buffer zones should be to protect young people from cannabis and it shouldn't matter what area of the city they reside. (CBC News)

A Regina city councillor says it's a "mistake" to exclude the downtown core from proposed rules on buffer zones for cannabis dispensaries.  

"We have as much a need to protect children in the downtown area as we do in any other area of the city," Ward 2 Coun. Bob Hawkins said.

A new report headed to this week's planning commission meeting proposes that pot shops not be allowed to operate in Regina within a block of schools, day cares and parks — unless those places are located downtown.

The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority has allotted six permits for retail cannabis permits to open up in the city. 

Buffer zones around schools, day cares

It's up to the city to decide where the shops will be allowed to go. 

City staff propose permitting cannabis dispensaries to be located on streets designated as commercial strips, shopping centres and in the downtown. 

"Generally, these zones are prevalent on major corridors, major intersections, large shopping centres in locations accessible by all forms of transportation and are highly visible," reads a report submitted by director of development services, Louise Folk, and executive director of civic planning and development, Diana Hawryluk.

Regina's downtown, outlined in green, that would be exempt from the buffer zones. The one-block buffers are shown in yellow. (City of Regina)

One-block gap

City staff recommend establishing a one-block minimum buffer zone around places associated with youth, such as schools, parks, playgrounds, rinks and community centres. 

Hawkins, who voted down the city's allowance of legal pot shops entirely, believes the buffer zones should be two blocks, instead of one. 

"I think young people, particularly in the teenage years, have no trouble walking a block," he said. 

Besides reducing the visibility of such businesses, the report says buffer zones would avoid too many dispensaries opening next to one another.

Downtown exemption

It proposes to not establish buffer zones around youth-associated places in the downtown area. In Saskatoon, city staff recommended an exception for Broadway because it's a business hub. 

"The [city] administration evaluated the impact of applying the separation distances in the downtown and found that most of the downtown would be restricted," according to a map that includes the locations of Victoria Park, the YMCA and YWCA. 

"There's no case that can be made to lower protection provided to youth in any area of the city," Hawkins said on Monday. 

Regina Ward 3 Coun. Andrew Stevens says he doesn't believe in taking a temperance approach to retail cannabis and support storefronts operating downtown. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

Area councillor sees no problem 

However, Coun. Andrew Stevens, whose ward includes the downtown, said he accepts the logic behind the proposed exemption. 

He believes downtown is more dynamic than other neighbourhoods, and is already to a mix of different businesses, as well as residential areas, which makes it's suitable for retail cannabis.

As well, Stevens said he does not believe in taking a "temperance"-style approach when it comes to retail cannabis.

For the downtown, the report calls for dispensaries to be at least one civic block apart. 

The Regina Planning Commission is set to meet and discuss the recommendations on Wednesday.

About the Author

Stephanie Taylor

Reporter, CBC Saskatchewan

Stephanie Taylor is a reporter based in Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC News in Regina, she covered municipal politics in her hometown of Winnipeg and in Halifax. Reach her at stephanie.taylor@cbc.ca

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