City ap­proves first cannabis re­tail store in Swift Cur­rent

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Front Page - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG — mlieben­berg@prairiepost.com

The City of Swift Cur­rent has ap­proved the devel­op­ment per­mit ap­pli­ca­tion for the first cannabis re­tail store in the city's down­town area.

Coun­cil­lors voted in favour of a mo­tion at a reg­u­lar coun­cil meet­ing on Oct. 9 to ap­prove the ap­pli­ca­tion by Dreamweavers Cannabis Prod­ucts Inc. to de­velop a cannabis re­tail store at 106 Cen­tral Av­enue North.

Some coun­cil­lors ex­pressed their con­cern about the man­ner in which the le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis was han­dled by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, ba­si­cally leav­ing it to the dif­fer­ent lev­els of gov­ern­ment to fig­ure out how to deal with it.

“I think I've been very clear on this from the very be­gin­ning that I'm not to­tally in favour of the way things were han­dled from Ot­tawa down to us, and I make that same con­sid­er­a­tion now, that the fed­eral level, provin­cial level and mu­nic­i­pal level, we were all kind of caught with our pants down,” Coun­cil­lor Ron Toles said.

He in­di­cated that he was re­luc­tantly vot­ing in favour of this ap­pli­ca­tion, be­cause there is no real rea­son to mu­nic­i­pally op­pose it and all the by­law is­sues have been ad­dressed.

“I'm not op­posed to cannabis re­tail stores in Swift Cur­rent, it's a thing that we have to live with,” he said. “I guess I'm not even op­posed to hav­ing them in the down­town area. We al­ready have sev­eral liquor out­lets, le­gal in­tox­i­cat­ing bev­er­ages, avail­able in the down­town area.

“I guess the proof will be in the re­sults and we can re­visit this an­other time if we are get­ting re­sults that we don't like, but as of right now, I can't see a cannabis re­tail store be­ing any more threat to the pub­lic or the prop­erty than the liquor re­tail stores or the bars and things that we have down­town al­ready.”

Coun­cil­lors Chris Martens and Ge­orge Bowditch shared the sen­ti­ment ex­pressed by Toles about the fed­eral gov­ern­ment's top-down ap­proach to the le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis. Bowditch added that he will sup­port the mo­tion for a prac­ti­cal rea­son.

“The peo­ple that are go­ing to buy or con­sume, ba­si­cally they're go­ing to drive some­where and get that,” he said. “It that any safer, hav­ing them on the road like that? ... Peo­ple are go­ing to ac­cess it, re­gard­less, and if there's a shop in Moose Jaw that's selling it and we don't have one in Swift Cur­rent, peo­ple are go­ing to go there.”

City ad­min­is­tra­tion made a rec­om­men­da­tion to coun­cil that the devel­op­ment per­mit ap­pli­ca­tion for a cannabis re­tail store be ap­proved.

City Gen­eral Man­ager for Plan­ning and Devel­op­ment Michael Ruus noted that a re­view of the ap­pli­ca­tion was com­pleted and the pro­posal meets the City's zon­ing by­law reg­u­la­tions.

City ad­min­is­tra­tion does not have any con­cerns that the pro­posed cannabis re­tail store will cre­ate a nui­sance and dan­ger to the pub­lic, or that it will im­pede or­derly devel­op­ment of sur­round­ing prop­er­ties.

Coun­cil­lor Pat Friesen asked if the City has looked at the way other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in the province or else­where in the coun­try are deal­ing with the lo­ca­tion of cannabis re­tail stores.

Ruus noted that their re­view of any is­sues in­cluded a mu­nic­i­pal scan.

“So in this case we take a look at other ju­ris­dic­tions, other prov­inces and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties within Saskatchewan,” he ex­plained. “In Saskatchewan, the ma­jor­ity of the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties all have at least the al­lowance for re­tail cannabis stores within the down­town core. So that formed part of our pro­fes­sional opin­ion in this case.”

The devel­op­ment of a cannabis re­tail store is a dis­cre­tionary use in Swift Cur­rent that re­quires ap­proval from City coun­cil. As part of the for­mal pro­ce­dure for a dis­cre­tionary use ap­pli­ca­tion a pub­lic no­tice was pub­lished in a lo­cal news­pa­per and all as­sessed prop­erty own­ers within a 75me­tre ra­dius of the pro­posed devel­op­ment re­ceived a let­ter with in­for­ma­tion about the ap­pli­ca­tion.

A pub­lic hear­ing took place dur­ing the Sept. 28 coun­cil meet­ing, where the ap­pli­cant made a sub­mis­sion in sup­port of the pro­posal.

There were no other pre­sen­ta­tions against or in sup­port of the ap­pli­ca­tion at the hear­ing. The City re­ceived six writ­ten sub­mis­sions, with one in favour and five ob­ject­ing to the pro­posed devel­op­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Ruus, the City's re­view of the ap­pli­ca­tion did not pro­vide any rea­sons for op­pos­ing this dis­cre­tionary use ap­pli­ca­tion.

“Based on our zon­ing by­law, we would need to make a case that es­sen­tially it doesn't meet the zon­ing reg­u­la­tions, it would im­pede fu­ture devel­op­ment, or cause a health or safety con­cern,” he said af­ter the meet­ing. “Based on the re­search that our team has done in­ter­nally, the best prac­tices that we have taken a look at in­dus­try-wide in­di­cate that a cannabis re­tail store in the down­town core re­ally does make sense in this case.”

The City does not have any con­cern that the op­er­a­tion of a cannabis re­tail store in the down­town busi­ness area will have a detri­men­tal im­pact on the area.

“Re­ally, the down­town master­plan is all about cre­at­ing a down­town that's the cen­tre of busi­ness, en­ter­tain­ment and cul­ture, and I think re­tail cannabis cer­tainly fits into that no dif­fer­ent than liquor stores or phar­ma­cies,” he said. “They're all fairly sim­i­lar uses from a land use per­spec­tive and again, that's how we have to make our de­ci­sions.”

The City's ap­proval of this dis­cre­tionary use ap­pli­ca­tion will not in­clude any spe­cific con­di­tions that the ap­pli­cant will have to ad­here to dur­ing the op­er­a­tion of the store.

“The re­tail side of the in­dus­try is very heav­ily reg­u­lated, es­pe­cially in this province,” he said. “The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has laid out the frame­work and the province has laid out their provin­cial frame­work. So as far as their ac­tual re­tail per­mit goes with the province, they have fairly strict con­di­tions. Where the mu­nic­i­pal­ity re­ally fits into the big­ger pic­ture is just de­ter­min­ing where they're go­ing to be lo­cated, which we've done over the last cou­ple of months now.”

The recre­ational use of cannabis will be­come le­gal on Oct. 17.

While the dis­cre­tionary use ap­pli­ca­tion by Dreamweavers Cannabis Prod­ucts Inc. has been ap­proved, the com­pany will still have to se­cure a busi­ness li­cense to op­er­ate in the city and any lease­hold im­prove­ments will re­quire rel­e­vant build­ing per­mits.

The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gam­ing Au­thor­ity has is­sued per­mits for two cannabis re­tail stores in Swift Cur­rent. The other suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cant is Saskatchewan en­tre­pre­neur Kevin Tin­dall of the num­bered com­pany 102014474 Saskatchewan Inc.

The City has not yet re­ceived a devel­op­ment per­mit ap­pli­ca­tion from him. It will have to fol­low the same process to re­ceive ap­proval as a dis­cre­tionary use in the down­town busi­ness area.

“At this point, I be­lieve they're still look­ing to se­cure a lo­ca­tion,” Ruus said. “Once they're ready to pro­ceed with their devel­op­ment per­mit ap­pli­ca­tion, we'll be work­ing with them from start to fin­ish.”

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