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Cannabis and Zoning FAQ

Retail Cannabis Stores

Role of Government

Three levels of government will oversee the manufacture, wholesale distribution, retail sales, and individual possession and use of non-medical cannabis (recreational marijuana):

Federal law sets out the conditions for legal possession and use of non-medical cannabis.  Bill C-45 is currently being debated in the Senate.  Final passage of the Bill is expected sometime in summer 2018.  Learn more here.  Use of non-medical cannabis is not legal until the Bill C-45 passes.

Provincial regulations (Bill 26) controls the distribution of non-medical cannabis and establishes who can own retail cannabis stores, general rules about where they can be located, rules for staff, safety and security requirements, and other operational details.  Learn more here.  The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) will regulate the licensing of retail cannabis stores.  AGLC will begin accepting applications for licenses in March 2018.  Learn more hereSale of non-medical cannabis is not legal until Bill 26 is comes into force.

Municipal land-use regulations will determine appropriate land-use zones where retail cannabis stores can be located.  Provincial regulations state that an AGLC license for a retail cannabis store is not valid until a development permit from the municipality has been obtained

Next Steps:  March to July/August 2018

Planning and Development Services has been anticipating these new regulations from the province for some time and has been doing research to get ready for whatever they might entail.  Now that they are clearly defined, we will be assessing the regulations and determining how we can align our Land Use Bylaw requirements with them.

By late March, we anticipate discussing with City Council the range of approaches available.  In April and May we anticipate refining the proposed Land Use Bylaw regulations in accordance with the direction we receive from City Council.  By June we should have the proposed amendments finalized and ready to proceed to City Council for formal consideration.

As part of the formal consideration, City Council must hold a public hearing.  At the public hearing community members, business owners, and any other interested parties can learn about and voice their thoughts on what is proposed.

Our aim is to be ready, as a municipality, to entertain development permit applications for retail cannabis stores when non-medical cannabis sales become legal with the passing of Bill C-45 and Bill 26 coming into force.  This is anticipated by late July or early August 2018.

Until then Planning and Development Services cannot issue a Development Permit or accept a Development Permit Application for a retail cannabis store.

Cannabis for Medical Purposes

Federal legislation allows only two methods of obtaining cannabis for medical purposes (medical marijuana).  A person who has a prescription for medical cannabis may grow a limited number of plants for their personal use or may designate someone else to grow them.  Alternatively, a person must obtain their prescribed cannabis from a federally 'Licensed Producer' who ships the product directly to them by mail.  No other dispensing/distribution method, such as 'compassion clubs' or 'medical marijuana dispensaries', is allowed.  The City of Lethbridge cannot issue a development permit for a compassion club or a dispensary or any type of storefront selling cannabis for medical purposes.

Cannabis Production

Federal legislation also governs the large scale production of cannabis for medical purposes.  Applicants must undergo a rigorous review process in order to become a 'Licensed Producer of Cannabis for Medical Purposes'.  Currently there are ninety Licensed Producers in Canada, five of them in Alberta.  Under Land Use Bylaw 5700 Licensed Producers are considered "Manufacturing, Intensive".  This is allowed only in the I-H (Heavy Industrial) district and in the I-G (General Industrial) district.  


For more detailed information, contact:
Planning and Development services at 403-320-3920