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Smithers pot hearing

Pot buffer zone leaves out half of downtown. A public hearing will be held soon on zoning.
The proposed 150-metre retail buffer zone from schools would only affect commercial areas near Muheim Memorial Elementary, leaving almost half the downtown core without the option to join the cannabis business sector . CANNABIS LEGALIZATION BEST PRACTICES & IMPLEMENTATION STUDY/Town of Smithers

The rules for cannabis sales in Smithers are taking shape.

Fees have been set for businesses who want to apply to sell recreational cannabis after last Tuesday’s council meeting. Where those businesses can set up shop now moves to a public hearing.

Where customers can actually smoke the product was not addressed after discussion before the recent election about regulating it even further than the Province allows, meaning for now provincial rules apply.

Those rules are that anyone over 19 years old can carry up to 30 grams in a public place and can generally smoke or vape where tobacco is allowed.

License applicants who pay the $900 application fee plus the $250 per year to the Town must first be approved by the Province. After that, council gets a chance to deny or approve the location. People living within 60 metres would be notified, a notice would be put in The Interior News and a public hearing would be held for each application, similar to a liquor license application.

Possible locations as put forward for a public hearing at a future council meeting, likely in December, will be in the retail area downtown. Almost half of that area would be off limits, though, as it falls within 150 metres of Muheim Memorial Elementary School. There is no Town bylaw enforcing a buffer zone for alcohol.

A proposed amendment by Coun. Gladys Atrill to remove the buffer zone was defeated, with only Atrill and Coun. Casda Thomas voting in favour.

“It seems that the retail sales ought to be downtown, and this effectively eliminates a bunch of the downtown core where in fact we want the business to take place. So the question for consideration is, is it necessary to have the 150-metre buffer around Muheim school … The question is what are we concerned about happening if there’s a retail store … if there’s a building behind Heartstrings? What’s the risk?” asked Atrill during the meeting.

“I don’t see the risk and we’re actually taking a whole bunch of potential retail sales locations [away].”

Director of development services Mark Allen explained how that number was reached.

“We had a drawing made up for the open house at the Old Church and it showed three different buffer zones, 100, 200 and 300 metres. And the 300 metres of course extended past Main Street and that wiped out pretty much the majority of the downtown core,” Allen told council.

“We decided … that 150 metres was more the happy medium between the survey results and what was practical.”

The response from the Old Church also had most people wanting the business in the downtown retail area, despite the contradictory response of a 300-metre buffer zone. The 150-metre buffer will allow all Main Street properties to sell cannabis, as it reaches to the back alley on the side closer to Muheim.

Smoking and vaping cannabis are not allowed in the following public places:

–Playgrounds, sports fields, skate parks, swimming pools and spray pools, or any decks or seating areas associated these places

–Public buildings, workplaces, or common areas of apartments, condos, or dormitories, and within six metres of air intakes, windows, and doorways attached to these places

–Within six metres of bus stops, transit shelters, train stations, ferry docks and similar places

–Regional and municipal parks, except for designated campsites

–Provincial parks, except for areas identified or designated

–Public patios

–Health board properties, except in designated smoking areas

Registered hotel guests may smoke or vape cannabis in their hotel room if the hotel allows it. Community care facilities, assisted living residences, and hospitals may designate specific rooms in which residents or patients can smoke or vape cannabis.

Non-medical cannabis consumption (in all forms) is banned on K-12 school properties, as well as any adjacent sidewalks or boulevards. It’s also illegal for both driver and passenger(s) to consume non-medical cannabis in a car.