While recreational cannabis has been legal across Canada for about a week, many municipalities are still developing their regulatory framework.
Houston Today asked the District of Houston how far the municipality has come when it comes to setting up their own regulations.
So far the district has updated its Development Bylaw to reflect how the municipality plans to regulate pot businesses.
According to Gerald Pinchbeck, Houston’s Chief Administrative Officer, the updated bylaw does not restrict the personal cultivation of cannabis at this time.
Retail cannabis stores will be permitted to operate in Houston’s core commercial and highway service commercial zones, subject to receiving a provincial retail permit. However, these stores may not be operated as a home occupation or home industry.
Meanwhile cannabis production and distribution uses will be permitted in the light and heavy industrial zones, as well as in the agriculture zone. However, they will not be permitted in the rural residential zone and may also not be operated as a home occupation or home industry.
According to Pinchbeck, the district has also adopted a cannabis retail license review policy to be transparent with the considerations council will take when reviewing a provincial permit application.
“Applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis based on their merit and feedback from public consultation,” he said.
In addition, Houston council has asked staff to research options for regulating the use of cannabis and managing odours from cannabis smoke.
“Staff are currently reviewing the existing regulatory framework, the local context, what other communities have put into place, what we hear through public engagement, and what is feasible in terms of regulations that the district can implement and enforce,” said Pinchbeck. “We will also factor in preliminary evidence based on what the experience is post-legalization with cannabis use throughout the community.”
The district anticipates that the regulatory framework will be complete at some point in 2019.
The province has prohibited cannabis smoking and vaping in areas where children and youth commonly gather –sports fields, skate parks, schools, provincial, regional and municipal parks and playgrounds– and banned youth under 19 from entering cannabis stores, even with an adult.
According to Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, keeping cannabis out of reach of children and youth is a top priority. Selling cannabis to minors will continue to be a criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years in jail. That’s in addition to provincial penalties of up to $50,000, jail time of up to six months or both.