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Houston places moratorium on pot businesses

The moratorium will allow the district time to review bylaws
The District of Houston has been preparing for the legalization of pot with a slate of bylaw amendments covering everything from retail to production. (Black Press file photo)

Houston council placed an immediate moratorium on potential marijuana-related businesses last week.

This means that no business licenses for pot-related businesses will be issued until the district enacts bylaws and policies to regulate them.

Houston has been preparing for the legalization of pot with a slate of bylaw amendments covering everything from retail to production.

READ MORE: Getting rolling with pot legalization

According to Jessica Bagnall, Houston’s corporate officer, the moratorium will allow council ample time to review these amended bylaws before they come into effect.

District staff anticipate that the bylaws will be in place as early as August 2018, and made effective after Sept. 1, 2018. In the meantime, the moratorium provides the district with a legislative basis for rejecting consideration of any pot-related businesses.

Bylaws and policies being reviewed include Houston’s development bylaw, business license bylaw, comprehensive fees and changes bylaw, as well as nuisance regulations. In addition, district staff have been busy developing educational materials.

The bylaw amendments are currently being finalized prior to being presented to council for first reading on June 19. Public engagement is expected to begin on June 27, and a public hearing and potential third reading of the bylaws are scheduled for July 17.

According to Gerald Pinchbeck, Houston’s Chief Administrative Officer, 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.

“There are different areas of the community where that business doesn’t mesh very well with the character of the neighbourhood,” 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.”

As for pot-growing facilities or distribution warehouses, those would be located in industrial areas that are fairly isolated from the surrounding community. Concerns regarding those industrial facilities would be addressed through business licensing.

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.

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, added Pinchbeck.

The Government of Canada intends to legalize the use of recreational cannabis late this summer through Bill C-45.

According to the federal government, the objectives of Bill C-45 are to prevent young persons from accessing marijuana,to protect public health and public safety by establishing strict product safety requirements, as well as to deter criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties for those operating outside the legal framework.

- With files from David Gordon Koch