By Laura Balanko-Dickson
Westwind Weekly News
On Tuesday, Sept. 21, the Town of Raymond had a public hearing about an amendment to a land-use bylaw for retail cannabis stores with dozens of businesses applying to bring their revenue to Raymond.
Once the public hearing began, the public was reminded several times that it was not about the morality of recreational cannabis use, however, some felt it necessary to discuss the morality of cannabis consumption in the community anyways.
Chief Administrative Officer Kurtis Pratt reminded everyone at the hearing the municipality “cannot prohibit” cannabis stores in Raymond, only provide specific criteria for them to meet set by the municipality.
Pratt reminded the town council that there could be an argument to be made for an “unfair amount of scrutiny” placed on such an amendment. The proposed changes gathered from the applications would only allow more central locations for retail cannabis stores in Raymond as well as extended business hours.
After hours of discussion and an attempt to amend the application and implement some changes, the amendment didn’t pass because of a tie. Some council members were confused by this, but mayor Jim Depew claimed there was reason for it.
With 54 applications for a review of the bylaw, 8 of which being late but included anyways, there is clearly no shortage of interest for retail cannabis in Raymond, and with it, they could bring thousands of tax dollars.
Despite this, towns people arrived to say things like, “Personally, I would prefer not to have a cannabis store in Raymond,” and, “we do not want it in our community.” Others said they felt “insulted” because it “popped up” on them. Others yet spoke about how they felt like they weren’t “given time” to speak despite saying that at the hearing with council members and suggested that the current iteration of the bylaw is not antiquated.
Some towns people even went as far as to spout antiquated views from the War on Drugs era, suggesting that a retail cannabis store would increase the need for policing.
After over an hour and a half of discussion, Pratt reminded everyone that whenever there is an application “process and timeline needs to be followed,” adding that someone could make an argument that there was an “unfair amount of scrutiny.”
Councillor Stewart Foss motioned to change the amended hours to 9 pm, in other words, leave this part of the bylaw unchanged. It passed unanimously.
Council next voted to adopt the remaining amendments and therefore change the bylaw to reduce the minimum distance of a retail cannabis store from both hospitals and schools from 300 metres to 100 metres, allowing for central or “downtown” retail cannabis stores.
With Foss, councillor Bryce Coppieters and councillor Joan Harker in favor of allowing retail cannabis in “downtown” Raymond and Mayor Depew, councillor Ron Fromm and councillor Ken Heggie voting against amending the bylaw, therefore not allowing it in central retail districts of Raymond within 300m of a school or hospital.
Confused, Harker said, “So, we revert back because it’s a tie?”
According to Mayor Depew, this is because there are only 6 people on council and stated that in this case, a tie is a defeat.