Local small towns yet to discuss cannabis shops in their boundaries

EAST CENTRAL — Beginning in April 2020, the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority will accept applications for cannabis retail permits in Saskatchewan communities with populations less than 2,500.

This includes local communities such as Carrot River, Watson, and St. Brieux, which were previously unable to have a cannabis store under requirements.

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Kevin Trew, Carrot River’s administrator, said he can’t speak for council’s current opinion on having a cannabis store in the community, but he can speak to council’s past commentary on the subject.

“When the original regulations regarding communities of a population of 2,500 and more were the only places allowed to have cannabis retailers, the Town of Carrot River actually supported a letter to SLGA asking that communities of smaller sizes than 2,500 be allowed to have retailers in their communities,” Trew said.

While council has undergone changes, the majority of councilors on council were present for that decision.

Trew said a significant part of the conversation centred around the economic factor of residents wishing to purchase cannabis would have to go outside the community.

Council expressed that the lack of a cannabis store was seen as something that would be a negative effect on the local economy.

“Customers of that retailer would also spend money on gas, they would also spend money on groceries in another community – it wasn’t just the purchase of the cannabis product, but there was also other economic factors with their purchase.”

Carrot River passed a zoning bylaw at the time, listing cannabis retails under retail. This is different from other communities like Nipawin and Tisdale which marked the stores as a discretionary use.

“We have what’s called a change of occupancy application that is required,” Trew said. “So any new business in Carrot River would have to file a permit application. Right now, such as it stands, that would be a decision that falls on the development officer, which is the town administrator.”

Trew said this means an application to open a cannabis store would be reported to council, but would not require asking council for permission.

“I don’t anticipate change on that because we did have a conversation on that in prior years, however if there was a cannabis retailer wanting to start up in Carrot River they would have to meet all the checks and balances of the Province of Saskatchewan and then the application would come to us and we would have to look at that at that time.”

Trew said council may still meet and have a conversation around if the council wishes to change the business to discretionary use.

“We will certainly be talking about that but I don’t know if council will want to go that way or not at this time.”

Heather Hind-Hluchaniuk, St. Brieux’s administrator said the subject of having a cannabis store in the community hasn’t been discussed yet in council.

“The most that has been discussed was in regards to smoking policy and we’re just running under what the Saskatchewan government basically has out – that’s no public areas,” Hind-Hluchaniuk said.

Lani Best, Watson’s administrator, said that council hasn’t discussed the option of having a cannabis retailer in the community.

“We haven’t really had any big conversation on it, but I don’t see them not being happy with it.”

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