Calgary has loosened its Cannabis Consumption Bylaw, which prohibits public consumption, by allowing for designated consumption sites around the city and exemptions for sites at festivals and other events once cannabis is federally legalized on Oct. 17.
Under the amendments approved Monday in council, festivals and events can apply for exemptions to the bylaw, allowing for fenced-off, open-air, monitored cannabis consumption sites.
Each application would be approved by the City of Calgary’s Interdepartmental Events team, which includes members of Alberta Health Services, Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, police, fire, and Calgary Emergency Management Agency.
Applicants would also need to meet the requirements for a consumption area, including separating it from main gathering areas in a defined area, with the city noting that provincial regulations do not permit smoking or vaping in an enclosed space like a tent.
Council also approved an amendment allowing for the smoking or vaping of tobacco in those designated cannabis consumption sites at festivals and events.
Council also approved a process for identifying and allowing designated sites for consumption of cannabis in public, making them exempt from the bylaw.
Ward councillors and residents would be involved with the initiation and discussions to determine suitable areas that would consider the well-being of communities, with designations being made during a public hearing.
“I’m not interested in having a pot park in my neighbourhood,” said ward 8 councillor Evan Woolley. “I thought the model of just allowing people to consume marijuana across the city whether it’s on sidewalks or in parks or whatever would diffuse any potential problem we would have in consolidating any behavior.”
Woolley also suggested police would be taking a light-handed approach to enforcement and would be more interested in education.
“This was a solution in search of a problem. I think we’ve created an incredibly red tape-heavy process for people to open up sites. I can tell you right now that I will not support individual sites being opened in any of my neighbourhoods.”
Ward 7 councillor Druh Farrell was supportive of the move, noting that legislating legalization is a “messy” process for councils across the country to deal with.
“The legislation we have today will probably look a lot different year from now,” said Farrell. “I’m prepared to take a more cautious approach, work with communities and try to iron out the problems as they arise.”
LISTEN: Matt Zablonski of the City of Calgary joins Danielle Smith to discuss how the public consumption sites could be manifested
Signage would identify designated consumption areas and each area would have waste bins, tamper-proof ashtrays and be confined to a well-defined radius.
The city has left the door open to the chief bylaw enforcement officer suspending public consumption areas for nuisance or safety concerns.
In a news release Tuesday, the City of Calgary also noted it expects to be making decisions on cannabis store development permits as early as July 30.
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