FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The City of Fort St. John is eyeing a change in its cannabis zoning bylaw to allow stores to operate beyond the downtown core.

Council has been monitoring the entry of cannabis stores and the impacts on the city since legalization in October 2018.

In a January 10th report to council, CAO Milo MacDonald says retail cannabis has had a minimal impact on the community and has been indistinguishable from other forms of retail.

Based on public feedback in 2018, it was recommended that stores only be permitted in the downtown core, and service and general commercial zones. However, council adopted the zoning bylaw only allowing stores to operate in the downtown core, which is currently in place.

City staff are presenting a report to council Monday to seek direction on amendments to the zoning bylaw to expand retail cannabis operations to all of the originally recommended zones.

“Opening up the C-3 and C-4 commercial zones for Cannabis Retail sales may help promote economic growth in our community by way of new storefronts and allow Cannabis Retail business entrepreneurs the ability to explore more locations based on the market and desire to provide access to Cannabis retail sales within the City,” said city planner Charlene Jackson in the report.

The report states that stakeholder groups, RCMP, Fire/Protective Services, and School District 60, were consulted, and reported no issues related to retail cannabis.

SD 60 notes that “cannabis use in its traditional forms by students or the public on their properties has been non-existent.”

The RCMP says vehicles that have been stopped were found to be transporting appropriately and were not impaired.

“Based on their experiences, there is no indication that the introduction of retail cannabis has had any impact or created any additional workload for the detachment.”

According to complaint data, the bylaw department says “there is no indication that the introduction of retail cannabis has had any impact or created any additional workload for the department.”

Northern Health declined to comment as they are currently focused on the COVID – 19 pandemic.

Retailers will still be prohibited from operating in neighbourhood commercial zones due to most properties being near schools and parks. Retail operations will remain prohibited 200-metre from schools and 100 metres from parks.

“The main concern heard from the community and council direction was about safety and locations away from children,” said Jackson.

There are three active cannabis retail stores within the City’s downtown core: Cannabis Corner, The Hive, and the BC Cannabis Store