Regina city council passed a motion that will treat cannabis retailers just like any other business. Once enacted, the motion will reduce the recommended distance between cannabis stores and “sensitive land use” buildings—and other cannabis stores—to 60 metres.
‘It’s legal, act like it’: City Councillor
At a planning commission meeting in early November, community advocates debated over whether the recommended 182.88-metre distance from schools, playgrounds, and other sensitive land use buildings like enclosed rinks, public libraries and community centres should be maintained or amended to 60 metres.
Initially intending to keep cannabis away from young people, cannabis retailers were only allowed to operate in six zones, as well as maintain the recommended distance from sensitive land use buildings, but as cannabis retail continues to positively contribute to the local economy and show itself as a relatively benign retail presence, Ward 3 Councillor Andrew Stevens decided it was time to loosen the reins.
In a subsequent meeting, Councillor Stevens made a motion to reduce the recommended distance and open up all 13 zones to cannabis retailers. All councillors were in favour of the motion except one.
“This is a remnant of an ill-conceived notion of Reefer Madness and that there would be harm associated with the presence of a store that is not legally even allowed to advertise anything,” Stevens told CBC Regina. “I think we need to get past the stigma of cannabis.”
Mayor Sandra Masters agreed, noting that the distance of 182.88 metres seemed “a little over-prescriptive”.
Store on Every Corner?
At the same time, the recommended distance between cannabis stores was lumped into the discussion, sparking concerns about whether the reduced distance may cause clustering and over-concentration.
Despite reducing the recommended distance between cannabis stores, each store will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, keeping in mind distance requirements. According to Council documents, the 60-metre distance will still prevent two stores from operating on the same block, and focused on maintaining the Goldilocks ratio of one store per 10,000 people, which Regina is already capable of reaching if all applications under consideration are approved.
Retailers in the city aren’t pleased with the change, however, essentially telling City Council, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, and that the initially recommended distance to sensitive use buildings and other cannabis stores was working just fine, and that it wasn’t hampering Regina’s legal cannabis market. In fact, retailers were adamant that the initial distance was keeping store numbers in check.
Regina is actually one of only six Canadian cities that have restrictions on the distance between cannabis stores. In Saskatoon, cannabis stores only have to be 60 metres from sensitive land use buildings, but 160 metres from each other. Calgary and Edmonton have similar restrictions, and in Kelowna, BC, stores have to be at least 150 metres from elementary schools and certain parks, but 500 metres from each other and middle schools and high schools. Winnipeg, however, recently repealed this aspect of its bylaws and treats cannabis retail like any other retail.