If a cannabis retail store eventually opens in Inuvik, N.W.T., it won’t be in the town’s main downtown retail sector.
Town councillors voted at a special meeting last Thursday to prohibit cannabis storefronts on MacKenzie Road from the hospital to Ingamo Hall — what council is calling the “downtown core” — largely to keep sales away from youth on their way to school.
“When we were talking about buffer zones or exclusion zones [for] a retail cannabis store … most of the conversation came up around how far it could or should be from the school,” Mayor Natasha Kulikowski said.
Many places in Canada already have regulations that restrict cannabis stores from being opened near schools.
Inuvik is the only community in the Northwest Territories with a liquor store that does not sell cannabis through that store. The store’s owners, the Inuvialuit Development Corporation — a subsidiary of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation — had decided not to sell cannabis when it became legal.
With no other retail locations available, residents must go online to order legal pot that’s delivered through the mail. Inuvik town council crafted the new zoning bylaw so it can be prepared, should a retail store be proposed.
Kulikowski said she has been told that someone has already submitted an application with the territorial government to open a retail cannabis shop in town.
“It’s important to have these bylaws in place for it, if that ends up getting approved and that person ends up pursuing it,” she said.
East Three Secondary and Elementary School is on Kingmingya Road, one road over from MacKenzie Road.
Tony Devlin, chair of the Inuvik District Education Authority, spoke to council prior to the vote and said a downtown exclusion zone was important to keep sales away from the school.
“We’re just trying to ensure that we’re doing our job and … ensuring a safe learning environment,” Devlin said.
At the third and final reading on Thursday, town council agreed. They passed an amendment that the “downtown corridor” — defined as most of MacKenzie Road — would be an exclusion zone. Other excluded zones will include the school itself, places of worship, parks and other facilities such as the homeless shelter.
Kulikowski said there are other areas zoned for commercial use where a cannabis store could open. Those areas include where the liquor store is now, as well as near the Nova Inn.
Some councillors and others suggested during the special meeting Thursday that the industrial zone near the beginning of the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway might be a good location for a cannabis store, but Kulikowski said that would mean more zoning bylaw changes, as the area is not zoned for commercial use.
Steven Baryluk was one of two town councillors who voted against the amendment to have the zoning bylaw exclude most of MacKenzie Road, a stretch of approximately two kilometres.
He said the new regulations were very similar to his own proposal, but the term “downtown corridor” was defined to include more than he wanted.
“What we did end up voting was a little more restrictive than I thought we might need it to be,” Baryluk said.
Under the new bylaw, cannabis store exclusion zones include:
- MacKenzie Road form the Inuvik Regional Hospital to Ingamo Hall;
- 150 metres around East Three School;
- 60 metres around places of worship;
- 60 metres around a college;
- 60 metres around a town facility;
- 45 metres around a daycare;
- 45 metres around parks.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Yukon territory taking applications for marijuana retail licences, CBC News
United States: Alaska Congressman seeks legal path for cannabidiol, Alaska Public Media