The District of Houston is preparing for the legalization of marijuana with a slate of bylaw amendments covering everything from retail to production. (Houston Today file photo)

Getting rolling with pot legalization

Houston begins bylaw development

Houston council got the ball rolling on regulations that would affect everything from cannabis production to sales, as it met for a committee of the whole meeting on the pending legalization of pot.

At the April 10 meeting, district staff received instructions to develop a slate of bylaw amendments for council’s consideration, said Gerald Pinchbeck, chief administrative officer for Houston.

Proposed cannabis retail businesses would be considered on a case-by-case basis, an approach that would help to make sure that any shops are well-integrated with the surrounding area, he said.

“There are different areas of the community where that business doesn’t mesh very well with the character of the neighborhood,” he said, noting that some downtown locations are right next to a school or daycare.

“That’s not necessarily where we want that specific business.”

That policy is in line with recently announced provincial regulations that require support from local governments for any weed-selling business that wants to set up shop. Local governments will also have to carry out a public consultation before giving any new retail outlets the green light.

Bylaws being developed would aim to make that process transparent, said Pinchbeck.

Changes to the business licence bylaw would also outline security requirements for cannabis retail businesses and ensure that stores comply with federal restrictions on advertising, he said.

Production facilities

As for pot-growing facilities or distribution warehouses, those would be located in industrial areas that are fairly isolated from the surrounding community, said Pinchbeck. No special spot-zoning would be required for those areas under the bylaws being developed.

Concerns regarding those industrial facilities would be addressed through business licensing, said Pinchbeck. That would involve ensuring that proposed businesses have their paperwork in order from the provincial and federal governments.

Changes to development bylaws would also allow cannabis production as a permissible agricultural land use.

Skunky smell

Other changes to the bylaws under consideration would address problems stemming from home-grown marijuana, including the skunky smell. This is meant to allow people to “freely enjoy their property without being disturbed by a public nuisance,” said Pinchbeck.

The fdederal government cannabis legalization bill allows for adults to grow up to four pot plants per household.

New fees related to commercial cannabis production may also be introduced. Pot-production facilities, if built in Houston, could consume large amounts of water and the district may choose to put new charges in place for that service, said Pinchbeck.

The district is also considering a communication strategy to let local residents know about new regulations for recreational cannabis in Houston.

A federal bill legalizing recreational marijuana, the Cannabis Act, could come into force as early as this summer.

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