Original Published 23:22 Apr 21, 2022

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Residents within Wheatland County may soon see increased accessibility for recreational cannabis, as three development permits were approved during the April 12 Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) meeting.

Permits for recreational cannabis retailers were approved to continue development for locations in Origin Business Park, Cluny and Gleichen – with the latter being the most debated location among commissioners.

According to administration, the county received seven responses from the community in support of the Gleichen retailer and 14 against, after circulating the permit application to the community. A total of 31 responses were also received after the permit applicant canvased the Gleichen community.

Commissioner Shannon Laprise raised concerns regarding the user demographic in Gleichen being a potential problem and the business owner not being local to Wheatland County.

“I think a lot of the people who were in favour, in particular the ones who were canvased by the potential business owner, are people who are generally known to police,” said Laprise. “I’m not sure that we should support their business.”

Commissioner Amber Link echoed the concerns of Laprise regarding the potential business.

“We’re aware that we have significant historical and current concerns in the community of Gleichen. Issues in letters that were shared by residents (included) loitering, violence (and) challenges with proximity to the library,” said Link. “We do have laws around violence and public behaviour, but my concern is that I don’t think from what we have seen in the community, we have sufficient capacity … to enforce the laws.”

Link clarified she was not opposed to a cannabis operation, recognizing the businesses as legal. Her concerns related less to the operation of a business itself, but rather about how the product is used in the community and the county’s ability to enforce its bylaws.

Commissioner Tom Ikert spoke in support of the applicant’s development permit, suggesting to treat it like any other business rather than to scrutinize based on the product.

“This is so new to us, this is a totally legal business … I know we have problems with loitering in Gleichen, we have no idea whether or not this is going to add to that because this is so new,” said Ikert. “I would not be opposed to … reviewing this in two years and see what’s happening, whether or not this is negatively impacting (the community). I think bylaw and RCMP will have a better idea whether this is making the situation a lot worse or if it’s not impacting the situation.”

Commissioner Scott Klassen also noted his support for the development permit, citing the potential positives associated with it and not to have prejudice based on their product. 

“Since it’s been legalized, I’ve talked to quite a few people and I’m shocked by the amount of seniors I know who will utilize product to relieve pain, help them sleep, whatever. They go to legal stores and buy it,” said Klassen. “They are not violent people … I look at this from that perspective. If we have seniors in the community who need this, they can buy it (there) instead of driving to Strathmore.”

The Wheatland County MPC voted to approve the development permit in Gleichen with four commissioners in support and two opposed. 

The Origin Business Park and Cluny development permits for cannabis retailers were passed unopposed.

This item reprinted with permission from Strathmore Times, Strathmore, Alberta