Cannabis retail stores are coming to Port Moody. But just how far apart they’ll be from each other, and how close they’ll be allowed to sensitive uses like daycares, schools and parks has yet to be determined.
At its meeting last Tuesday, Port Moody council adopted amendments to its zoning and licensing bylaws to allow the shops to open in the city, but concerns raised by the Fraser Health Authority means there may be fewer of them than originally envisioned.
In a letter sent to council May 14, Fraser Health’s medical director for the Tri-Cities, Dr. Ingrid Tyler, advised the city should consider increasing the distance of cannabis retail stores from sensitive uses to 600 metres, and the distance between such shops to at least 300 metres.
Tyler said those separations will “reduce the visibility and availability of cannabis to youth” as well as limit the “overall density of cannabis availability in the community.”
(A spokesperson for Fraser Health said many of the health authority’s medical health officers have taken the opportunity to consult with communities on their cannabis regulations.)
As part of its consideration for allowing cannabis retail shops to set up in Port Moody, council had endorsed a corporate policy that such stores be located at least 75m from sensitive use sites. That was down from an initial staff recommendations for a 200-m buffer to sensitive uses and a 500-m distance between outlets. The latter would have meant no more than three shops could be located in the city.
When council gave first three readings to the bylaw amendments and its assent to the smaller buffers, it also said it would consider no more than five rezoning applications for cannabis retail shops in the first year after the bylaw amendments are adopted.
Coun. Diana Dilworth said Tyler’s letter sends a powerful message.
“I think we deserve to give this professional opinion some consideration,” she said.
Coun. Zoe Royer agreed.
“I really think we have to take these recommendations to heart,” she said, adding the greater separation between outlets would limit their number to “something more reasonable” than the five council had endorsed for the first year.
Coun. Amy Lubik suggested the city’s corporate policy should also include restrictions on the display, advertisement and promotion of cannabis, tobacco and vapour products outside the stores, including exterior signage, sidewalk sandwich boards, flyers and sign spinners, as recommended in Tyler’s letter.
Acting mayor Meghan Lahti said staff will take another stab at drafting the corporate policy then return it to council at an upcoming meeting for its consideration.
Tim Savoie, Port Moody's city manager, said that work shouldn't delay the city's timeline for considering rezoning applications from licensed cannabis retailers. Staff receive referrals from the province's Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch until Sept. 30, and those potential operators must apply for rezoning by Oct. 1.
Port Moody’s manager of building, bylaw and licensing, Robyn MacLeod, said seven properties in the city have already been secured for possible cannabis retail shops, and staff has received more than 20 inquiries from potential operators.