Calgary moves forward with ban on public pot, defers decision on ‘cannabis gardens’

Click to play video: 'Proposed Calgary bylaw banning public marijuana use given green light' Proposed Calgary bylaw banning public marijuana use given green light
WATCH: After getting tentative approval on Tuesday, a proposed marijuana use bylaw is expected to be looked at by councillors later this week. As Tracy Nagai reports, the city is backing away from allowing proposed "cannabis gardens." – Apr 3, 2018

City administrators in Calgary have recommended councillors adopt a ban on public consumption of cannabis when pot becomes legal later this year.

A report that is to be debated this week says a new bylaw should restrict all forms of cannabis consumption in public places, or in areas where the public has consent to enter.

“The effects of cannabis on a person can vary depending on the individual and the strain and potency of the cannabis being consumed,” says a document that explains the reason for the recommendation.

“For many it can have relaxing, positive effects, but it can also alter one’s state of consciousness and induce anxiety and panic attacks.”

READ MORE: Marijuana industry has big questions as Calgary looks at banning pot in public

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The idea isn’t being welcomed by Keith Fagin of the cannabis advocacy group Calgary420. He says cannabis users deserve somewhere public where they can gather to smoke, vape or eat the drug.

“It’s just not something that’s going to be a public safety issue whatsoever,” he says.

The city report says the recommendation follows public consultation, including telephone surveys which found a majority of Calgarians would prefer cannabis consumption rules to mirror those for drinking alcohol in public places.

Fagin says he’s not surprised.

“We’re called the Texas of the North and for good reason. We’re super-strongly conservative here and … we’re more hard-nosed and hard-headed about things like that.”

LISTEN: Keith Fagin, founder of Calgary 420, shares his thoughts on Calgary Today

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Alberta Health Services (AHS) said in a presentation on Tuesday it would like to see rules made even stricter, strongly supporting a recommendation to ban on smoking, vaping or consuming marijuana.

AHS said it has concerns about the renormalization of smoking behaviour, as well as public safety issues and second-hand smoke exposure.

Lawyer and marijuana advocate Kirk Tousaw says the proposed exemption for medical consumption is key to whether a public ban would be legal. But he disputes that rules for cannabis consumption need to be the same as those for booze.

“What you’re not going to see with public cannabis consumption are some of the real public nuisances that you see with public alcohol consumption, which is people passed out, people vomiting on the streets, people urinating on the streets because they’ve lost any inhibitions and are too hammered to care,” said Tousaw, speaking from Duncan, B.C.

“Cannabis doesn’t tend to do that. If anything, it sometimes makes you a little more introverted because of the potential anxiety-producing effects of THC.”

READ MORE: What did 15,000 Calgarians have to say about legalizing marijuana?

Administration deferred a decision on whether to establish “cannabis gardens” — much like beer gardens — at events like festivals such as the Calgary Folk Fest, saying more study was needed.

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“We host our event in a city park and as such, the Calgary Folk Music Festival will comply with the bylaws set by the City of Calgary in regards to cannabis,” folk fest executive director Sara Lieshman said in an emailed statement.

“We have a committee of the board of directors who are tracking the progress of the legislation, but until we know the extent of the bylaws, we are unable to comment at this time.”

The Calgary Folk Festival happens at the end of July, before the legalization of marijuana is expected to be passed.

Earlier this month, the Montreal suburb of Hampstead adopted a bylaw that bans all smoking in public places. It prohibits tobacco and marijuana on municipal property, including sidewalks and streets.

The bylaw does not prohibit electronic cigarettes.

Fagin says if condo and apartment buildings also ban smoking and vaping cannabis, that could mean users wouldn’t be able to step outside for a puff. Edibles would be an option when they become legal later, he suggests, but they take time to work and have different effects.

The odour from vaping cannabis is much less noticeable than cigarette smoke, says Fagin, who feels users and non-users should still be able to get along.

“If you are a cannabis consumer or considering consuming cannabis, be a responsible adult about it and not go out in public and blow smoke in people’s faces.”

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— With files from Global News’ Tracy Nagai

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