ESTEVAN - The city gave second and third readings to the bylaw No 2021-2046 regulating the area within the city that a cannabis retail store may be established in.
Council looked into comments brought up by the residents since the first reading that occurred on Aug. 9, when a detailed report of the proposal was presented to the council.
One resident reached out to Richard Neufeld, the land development manager with the City of Estevan, stating that cannabis should not be legalized and available for sale in Estevan. To that, the response was that legalization is a federal matter and retail sales are controlled primarily by the province of Saskatchewan. The original 2018 Zoning Bylaw Amendment, which allowed for cannabis resulted in minimal debate within Estevan.
"This is a federal jurisdiction. And we fall not only under the federal but under the provincial jurisdiction. So we follow what we're told to do," added Mayor Roy Ludwig.
Another person pointed out that Estevan has enough cannabis stores. To that, the response was that Estevan has not employed a cap on the number of stores of any kind that can operate within the city of Estevan.
"The council up to this point in time has said, 'Let free enterprise take its course. And when they reach a critical mass, i.e. too many, then they will stop having new ones and we may have one or two that may close.' I don't know that it's up to us to dictate a number. We would rather let the free enterprise take its course like we do with some of the other businesses in town," Ludwig said.
Another person noted that cannabis stores should not be close to any addictions treatment or counselling centres.
"Right now … to our knowledge, there are no outlets close to addiction counselling that we're aware of," Ludwig said.
The only addictions treatment centre in Estevan is located at St. Joseph's Hospital. Councillors also noted that there is a drug testing facility and a counselling centre located on Fifth Street.
"I think that'd be really hard to enforce. Because now, once we will have a cannabis store to open, are we going to stop the addiction centre from opening down the street? … We have to look into that a bit more because I hear what they're saying, and I don't think we'd want to open one up right across the street from the hospital, but in the same breath, how far do you go with what kind of addiction centre?" raised concerns councillor Shelly Veroba.
"I think part of it's going to come down to who's there first," responded Neufeld. "If there was a concern about separation distance from an addiction centre, that could be dealt with as part of the development permit process, that's what it's there for. We have a minimum 75-metre distance that we refer to typically on discretionary uses, but we do expand that from time to time if it looks like there's merit in doing so."
He added that even if the distance is greater than 75 metres, they would notify existing businesses anyway and go from there.
Councilors Travis Frank and Tony Sernick supported the idea to deal with potential concerns about future counselling or addictions centres opening close to cannabis stores in consultation with the community and on a precedent basis as potential businesses apply for permits.
"It was pointed out to each respondent that the point of his bylaw was to open up the existing locational restrictions with the main exception of the school separation, which would remain in place. Any actual proposals for a new cannabis retail store would require further public consultation within the neighbourhood surrounding the proposed store location," Ludwig added.
The bylaw was carried in second and third readings.