BANFF, Alta. – The Town of Banff is grappling with unique challenges before this year’s legalization of recreational pot.
With a reputation as a place to get a “Rocky Mountain high” and with a large international tourist base, the small mountain town is already on the radar for retailers.
“We are unique in terms of our fixed land base and very limited amount of commercial space, and the fact that we have very unique town purposes as a national park community — to serve as a visitor service centre … and provide a range of services for those people,” said Randall McKay, Banff’s director of planning and development.
Officials expect to craft rules about where pot could legally be consumed within the townsite and where cannabis-based businesses could be located.
McKay said it will be up to town council to decide whether to allow the new businesses, but added there’s already a lot interest from retailers who would like to set up shop.
If council allows it, he said, it will be a delicate balance to ensure the town’s small retail district doesn’t become a “green mile” with cannabis stores.
“My initial thought is there needs to be some type of separation and process for deciding where these types of stores should be located,” he said. “We certainly know there’s going to be market demand, or all the evidence points to that.”
McKay said Banff could look at a different approach than the one it uses for regulating liquor stores. There are 12 storefronts in the four-square-kilometre retail district.
In addition to deciding where cannabis retailers will be allowed to open and where it will be OK to use it, officials are also working to establish definitions for storefronts and related businesses.
Those details are expected in the coming weeks. A bylaw is expected to be in place before the federal government legalizes cannabis this summer.
Any changes to the town’s bylaws need to be approved by Parks Canada.
— By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton. With files from CHQR