As the first private retail cannabis shop outside of Whitehorse gets set to open Aug. 9, residents of Dawson City where the shop is opening will have their say on proposed town bylaw regulations around cannabis for the town on Aug. 26.
That’s when a public hearing is scheduled on zoning changes that would impact cannabis retailers and growers.
Dawson Mayor Wayne Potoroka said in an Aug. 7 interview the bylaw changes came from the town’s review of its Official Community Plan and zoning bylaw.
“It became clear more work was needed around cannabis retail,” he said, adding there were also questions that arose around growing cannabis in the community.
The proposed regulations make it clear retail cannabis shops can be located in commercially zoned properties, but not within 100 metres of Robert Service School and that the shops can sell other products aside from cannabis goods.
They also proposes that growing facilities can be located in industrial and commercial mixed zones.
Dawson wants to modify the territorial regulation that says shops must be 150 metres away from schools. In Dawson that limit would be reduced to 100 metres.
“Everything is central in a town our size,” Potoroka said, making the 150-metre setback extremely limiting for anyone trying to open up a cannabis shop.
Potoroka praised the territory’s approach in allowing municipalities to alter the regulations through their own bylaws and thus address the unique circumstances of individual communities.
Along with altering the setback from the school and allowing for the sale of non-cannabis products, Dawson officials thought it would be beneficial to clearly define where retail shops and growing facilities can be located.
Council members also reviewed the other Yukon government legislation, concluding other provisions of the territorial legislation were a good fit for Dawson and, thus didn’t need to be included in the bylaw.
There’s no way of knowing how many residents might want to address council on the proposed bylaw at the Aug. 26 public hearing, but based on what Potoroka’s hearing around town there’s not a lot of concern about the bylaw itself.
The concerns he has heard cannabis retail operations centre around ensuring people have the information they need about the effects of cannabis and making it clear that cannabis is an intoxicant.
Potoroka said he’s confident that information is available and it’s a matter of directing people to it and ensuring sales are managed in a responsible manner.
That’s exactly what Sarah Cooke said she and business partner Anna Radzimioska plan to do when their shop — Dawson City Cannabis — opens above the CIBC bank in Dawson.
It is the first private establishment outside of Whitehorse to be granted a cannabis retail license with three others granted for Whitehorse.
Another two are going through the licensing process — Andrea’s Hotel in Watson Lake and Pot Hole to be operated by Carmacks Hotel Ltd. in Carmacks.
Yukon government regulations are in effect until a community opts to go through with a bylaw of its own.
In an Aug. 7 interview, Cooke said anyone with questions or concerns about how the Dawson store is run, security measures taken or on any other matters are invited to come into the store and speak directly with the owners.
“I want this to be well-received,” she said.
With a full-time job as a massage therapist, Cooke said she has a number of clients who are looking for alternative health/medicinal options.
“Access to alternatives is really important,” she said.
Looking at the bylaw, specifically for retail operations, Cooke said she doesn’t believe the set back from the school is necessary.
Given the heavy regulations already in place through the Yukon government, there’s little need of a setback of any kind, she said. She pointed out cannabis products must be out of sight and windows frosted so people can’t see directly into the operation. Even when customers come in there’s no immediate line of sight to the product and anyone underage will be quickly directed out.
While not in favor of the setback, she stressed both the town and territory were good to work with throughout the process to open the store.
That said, the licensing took longer than planned. After submitting the application in February, shortly after private retailers could apply, there were a series of “little delays along the way” as the licensing board requested clarity and asked questions from Cooke and Radzimioska along the way. The licensing board requires many details around financing of the business, the background of proprieriters and more, Cooke said.
“It’s very heavily regulated,” she commented, describing the process as “a bigger monster than I anticipated”.
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