Marijuana consumption sites could be coming to Calgary festivals

Marijuana user rolling joint. Global News

The City of Calgary has proposed to allow festivals to set up separate areas where marijuana will be allowed to be consumed once the legalization of cannabis comes into effect.

Under a proposal set to go to council on June 25, designated cannabis consumption areas, similar to beer gardens, will be allowed if an event creates a space which goes under a review and is approved by city administration. The goal is to reduce the impact of marijuana consumption on other festival-goers who don’t want to be offended by the smell.

READ MORE: Calgary city council passes bylaw prohibiting marijuana consumption in public

Committee chair Diane Colley-Urquhart defended the process saying it might be over-regulation, but tighter restrictions can be loosened once more of the impacts of legalization are known.

“It’s easier at the beginning to regulate it in some way, and then maybe four months, six months from now, we can ease up and not regulate this to the extent we are through bylaws.”

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LISTEN: Councillor Jyoti Gondek joins Ryan Jespersen to discuss a council committee decision to allow marijuana use at festivals

Colley-Urquhart also commented on the complicated process of going through and evaluating bylaws such as these.

“We’re going through a pretty messy period, trying to figure this all out. Especially when you’ve got three jurisdictions: the federal government not knowing what they’re doing or when they’re bringing this in; and then you’re dealing with the province with AGLC (Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission). And now we’re trying to make something happen, not knowing really when the feds are going to bring this into force.”

READ MORE: Calgary city council decides where future cannabis shops can set up

Colleague Evan Woolley is on the other side of the fence.

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“There has been cannabis consumed at Folk Fest for many, many, many years, and that’s been happening without incident. So this is a solution in search of a problem.”

Calgary Folk Festival executive director Sara Leishman is concerned about the additional costs of designated cannabis┬áconsumption areas, saying there is “no opportunity to recoup costs through sales or sponsorship.”

“With the information we have to date, we estimate the costs of infrastructure for one consumption site to be approximately $2,500. Costs of training, plus additional volunteers, and/or paid security to staff the entrance will increase that expense.”

READ MORE: Calgary parents encouraged to talk to kids about possible impact of marijuana use

The city’s police chief is also raising concerns about cannabis enforcement and the costs that come with it.

In his annual report, chief Roger Chaffin told the city’s Protective Services Committee Wednesday that the police service is investing a lot of money in training officers and on drug detection equipment, but it doesn’t stop there.

“How do we manage the smoking in public issues? These are bylaws, I appreciate, that are being constructed, but our members have the obligation to enforce bylaws as well.”

Chaffin said it will come down to the same number of officers doing more work. The chairman of the Calgary Police Commission said the city could make it easier on citizens, businesses, police and bylaw officers by streamlining its bylaws to make sure they’re in line with provincial cannabis regulations.