FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – City council voted on Monday to give the first and second readings to a bylaw that will allow cannabis shops to open in retail spaces throughout the city.

The bylaw will still require a public hearing and a third reading before it is passed by council.

Cannabis stores are currently limited to C-2 zoning (or the downtown corridor). The bylaw before council will allow shops to be established in C-3 and C-4 zones. These zones, general commercial and highway commercial, respectively, will let marijuana retailers operate outside of downtown.

The original limitation to zoning was put in place in 2018 when cannabis was originally legalized.

The decision to allow cannabis enterprises to expand was made based on three main factors: an examination of cannabis retail in other, similar cities; careful monitoring of any community effects of cannabis retail in Fort St. John; and a high level of interest from prospective retailers.

The monitoring report was brought before council last January. It reported no negative social or economic impact on provincial or city resources due to the legalization of cannabis retail. Council did not proceed with this expansion at that time.

The major question concerning this bylaw, however, seemed to have little to do with cannabis.

Allowing retail to expand into other zones of the city encourages economic developmentwhether the shops are selling pot or pots and pans.

This was the argument put forward by several council members when the possibility of expansion was brought forward in May.

Other members of the council disagreed, arguing that the character of the downtown core, however, is at risk when smaller businesses are allowed to set up shop along main thoroughfares like the Alaska Highway or large portions of 100th avenue. 

The new bylaw will contain the same restrictions within zones that the original zone maintained, which included setbacks of 200 metres from schools and 100 metres from parks.

After the first two readings, the new bylaw will go to a public hearing to gain input from residents, business owners, and community members. 

The public hearing will be held on August 22, 2022, at 6:00 p.m. in city hall.

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Grace Giesbrecht

Grace Giesbrecht is a news reporter for EnergeticCity.ca who recently graduated from Trinity Western University with a bachelor of arts in Media + Communications. She was born and raised just outside of Fort St. John. She began reporting for her university’s student newspaper and interned with Ottawa Life Magazine where she developed a passion for asking questions, telling stories, and the written word. In her free time, you can find her drinking coffee, snowboarding, or reading novels.