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Cannabis Retailers and the Layers of Regulation Impacting Sale
Countdown to Cannabis Legislation

You're about to see some new businesses opening up around town: cannabis retail businesses. The Province is expected to issue approximately 250 cannabis retail licenses to businesses in anticipation of the upcoming legalization of recreational cannabis in summer 2018.

The City of Calgary and the City of Edmonton have each responded by revising their zoning by-laws to regulate the spatial distribution of cannabis retailers in Alberta's two largest cities.

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission requires municipal approval of the proposed cannabis retail location in order for a prospective retailer to obtain a valid retail cannabis license.

As such, it is important to consider the zoning regulations in any city, town, or county if you intend to set up a cannabis retailer.

The Government of Alberta has set certain minimum distance requirements between cannabis retailers and other enterprises. The Provincial legislation has granted Municipal Governments the ability to increase the minimum distance requirements and opt for other land use restrictions.

The Government of Alberta requires at least 100 metres between a cannabis retailer and the following:

  • Provincial health care facilities;
  • Schools; and
  • School or municipal/school reserve land. 

Zoning regulations for retail cannabis will vary from one municipality to the next. These changes to the zoning regulations will include clarifying in which zones cannabis retailers are permitted, discretionary, or not permitted uses and setting minimum distance requirements from specified locations.

City of Edmonton 

Requirements in Edmonton are found in the proposed draft Zoning Bylaw 12800 amendments.  

In Edmonton under the draft framework for land use, for example, there are currently 13 zones which designate cannabis sale as a permitted use including: Shopping Centre Zone, Low Intensity Business Zone, General Business Zone, Highway Corridor Zone, Commercial Office Zone, Commercial Mixed Business Zone, Industrial Business Zone, Core Commercial Arts Zone, Commercial Mixed Use Zone, Heritage Area Zone, Jasper Avenue Main Street Commercial Zone, Urban Warehouse and the Arena & Entertainment District Zone.

A permitted use zoning designation means that so long as the developer complies with the regulations, the cannabis retailer’s application for a zoning permit must be approved. Adjacent landowners are not required to be notified when a cannabis retailer is approved.

Beyond retailers, the City of Edmonton has included Cannabis Lounges as a classification in the proposed zoning bylaw amendments. Alberta’s current Cannabis Framework does not permit Cannabis Lounges – however the City of Edmonton has added Cannabis Lounges as a classification in the event that cannabis lounges are later permitted.

City of Calgary 

Calgary is a different story. Requirements in Calgary are found in the proposed Land Use Bylaw 1P2007 amendments.

In the proposed amendments, 21 zones designate cannabis sale as a permitted use. Zones permitting cannabis retailers are located in commercial, industrial, downtown, and mixed use districts.  Currently one zone designates cannabis sale as a discretionary use in an industrial district. Other zones located in residential districts do not permit cannabis sale.

While the number of zoning classifications where cannabis retail is permitted appears to be radically different than those in Edmonton, bear in mind that different municipalities zone in different manners and that the City of Calgary has more zoning classifications than the City of Edmonton. This means the numbers are not necessarily comparable.  

Distance Requirements 

Both cities opted to set certain distance requirements between cannabis retail and other enterprises. These distance requirements between cannabis retailers and certain locations vary between the two cities.

Edmonton and Calgary’s proposed distances between for schools, liquor stores, and other cannabis retailers vary as indicated by the graph below

Distance Required Between Cannabis Retailers + Other Locations
  Schools Liquor Stores Cannabis Retailers
Edmonton 200 m 0 m  200 m
Calgary 150 m 30 m 300 m


Resources for Businesses 

Thinking of turning your commercial property into a cannabis retailer? Worried about the impact of a cannabis retailer moving in next to your business? Our cannabis group has experience advising cannabis producers on financing and corporate governance, packaging, zoning and intellectual property. We are also available to assist prospective cannabis retailers with applications for retail licenses.

More to Come

Field Law's Cannabis Industry Group will continue to countdown to the implementation of the legislation during the summer of 2018. Stay tuned for more information on labour and employment, occupational health and safety, intellectual property and business-related issues that may arise following the legalization and regulation of cannabis.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.