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Posted on: August 27, 2018

Cannabis and the County of Stettler

Cannabis

What did our community say?

On June 10, 2018 The County of Stettler launched an online survey to ask our community their feelings about cannabis legalization and how the County can make bylaws that reflect their values. The survey ran for 51 days and we had 646 responses.

General Information

Our survey showed that 60% of our respondents were in favour of the legalization of Cannabis. Sometimes, our assumption is that because we are rural, we are also very conservative with all of our values, but this particular statistic does show that sometimes our assumptions are wrong. 

When looking at the second question on our survey, ‘What are the issues surrounding cannabis that you are most concerned with?’ the top five answers were:

  1. Impaired Driving
  2. Public Smoking & Vaping of Cannabis
  3. Education for Youth
  4. Workplace Safety
  5. Odors from Smoking Cannabis in Public

These responses seem to indicate that the actual consumption of Cannabis is not as large of a concern, as how the consumption of Cannabis will affect the general public. Many people in the comments indicated they were in favour of treating cannabis a lot like alcohol, where the consumption is done in the privacy of your own home or licensed facilities, and that there are concrete rules governing the safe use of Cannabis.

We also asked respondents to indicate to us their likelyhood to participate in Cannabis activities once they are legal. 65% of respondents indicated they will not be growing plants in their homes, even though growing up to four plants per household will be legal.  It is also good to note that our respondents, in terms of age, were a great representation of our population make up as a whole. The curve on the age brackets is very similar to the age curve of our entire population, with the majority of respondents between the ages of 25 and 54.

We then asked citizens a series of specific questions relating to things that the County of Stettler can change through bylaws and policies.

Public Consumption

When asked where the County of Stettler should allow the public smoking of Cannabis, 46% of the population chose “none of the above” when a list of public places was presented. Further to that, 38% thought it would be ok to allow the smoking of cannabis on municipal reserve and green spaces that are not playgrounds. 80% of respondents did not want smoking of Cannabis to be allowed on sidewalks, walking trails or in parking lots and roadside turnouts. Further, 60% of the respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that smoking cannabis should strictly be limited to private property. When asked if cannabis should be treated like tobacco when it comes to public consumption, 49% of the population strongly or somewhat disagreed.

Location of Retail Locations

There are few controls within the Land Use Bylaw that the County of Stettler can use to influence where Cannabis retail stores are located, including minimum setbacks and distances from vulnerable locations (ie. Schools) and choosing the zones in which cannabis retails stores are permitted to locate. When asked if they are concerned with how close cannabis stores are to one another, 78% of the respondents either had no opinion on the matter, or did not have a concern with how close they would be to one another. When asked about retail store locations in relation to schools and playgrounds, 67% indicated that they were very, or somewhat concerned with how close cannabis stores would be to those locations. When asked about how far away cannabis stores should be from schools, playgrounds and parks, 59% indicated that a distance of 200m (about the width of two blocks)  or greater would be appropriate. Finally, we asked respondents where they would like to see retail locations permitted, keeping in mind the county has a obligation to set areas where they can be located. Hamlet Commercial, Industrial and Commercial Developments were the top three areas that respondents chose as their preferred locations.

Location of Production Facilities

Production Facilities are where Cannabis is produced and sold, much like any other agricultural commodity. When asked if respondents were concerned about the location of production facilities, 58% of the population didn’t have an opinion on the matter, or did not have a concern. When asked where production facilities should be allowed, 44% indicated that farms would be a good location, and another 27% indicated that industrial zones would be the most appropriate location.

Conclusion

When asked if Cannabis would have a positive impact on our economy, 50% of the respondents strongly or somewhat agreed. 

When it comes to cannabis, municipalities have a very specific role in defining how cannabis shares our communities. We are responsible for determining the level of public consumption we’d allow in our communities and for setting out the locations and setback for where production and retail locations can go. In August, Council used this survey and feedback to draft both a Smoking Bylaw (restricting the consumption of tobacco and cannabis) and Land Use Bylaw Amendments to accommodate Cannabis stores and production facilities. 

If you have any questions regarding the Cannabis Bylaws or this survey, please contact Shawna at sbenson@stettlercounty.ca or 403-742-4441 ext. 135.

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