Danielle Smith: Province and city council both to blame for Calgary cannabis fiasco

Cannabis will be legal on October 17. GETTY IMAGES

Does anyone else find it strange that it is going to be harder to consume cannabis after it is legal on Oct. 17 than it is right now when it is illegal?

The province and city council are both to blame for setting up a situation in which it is impossible to consume cannabis anywhere other than your own home, and in doing so they are going to create a nightmare for conflict between citizens and bylaw enforcement.

There is no point in having dumb rules because all you will end up with is mass non-compliance. And yet, that’s what the province and the city have done.

READ MORE: Calgary won’t have public cannabis consumption sites before legalization date

The province — which has generally managed the move to a legal market fairly well aside from this — made the first major mistake by failing to allow indoor gathering places, cafes or clubs to allow cannabis consumption. Presumably, that’s because if authorities allowed indoor cannabis smoking, citizens would begin asking the very reasonable question: if I can smoke pot at an indoor smoking cafe, why can’t I smoke cigarettes at an indoor smoking cafe? (That’s a topic for another day.)

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But layer on top of this bad decision the equally bad decisions of the city to ban smoking in all public places, and allow individual city council members to pick and choose whether they want designated public consumption sites in their wards. Since when did city council members become individual fiefdoms? Council members don’t get to veto whether someone is allowed to smoke cigarettes in their wards, or whether there should be liquor stores or VLTs. It’s absurd that they were able to block the administration from even considering sites in their area.

LISTEN: Danielle Smith talks with Matt Zabloski about designated cannabis consumption sites

Not that it would have mattered much anyway, it appears. With all the restrictions — not near schools, or parks, or daycares, and so on — the administration only managed to identify four places in all of Ward 8 that would have qualified. That creates a new problem. If there are only four legal public consumption sites in all of Calgary, they’re going to be so intensively used that a new set of nuisance issues will emerge in those communities. Local residents, quite rightly, rebelled and the city pulled the plug.

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But now we are in the absurd situation where there is no legal public place you can consume this soon-to-be legal product.

This needs a reset. First, if you are consuming edibles or vaping, you aren’t creating a nuisance for anyone else and you should be allowed to consume anywhere. Colorado’s experience has shown that 65 per cent of people prefer to consume this way, so that will satisfy the majority of users.

READ MORE: Cannabis stores in Manitoba face rules for displays, security and more

As for smoking, the province needs to relax the rules around cafes and realize that the benefits of cannabis cafes are completely in sync with their stated desire to keep cannabis out of the hands of kids. Cafe owners would be required to ID and restrict entry to children, having it indoors would keep consumption out of the eyesight of children, and indoor cafes would contain the “nuisance” of cannabis smoke exposure to those adults who choose to enter. The province could even create additional restrictions around these cafes: that you can’t be licenced to sell either cannabis or alcohol onsite, for instance, and that you have to bring your own product.

I have every confidence that entrepreneurs would be able to figure out a business model that works. You might get a bookstore, or a coffee shop, or an art gallery, or some other venue decide to convert to a cannabis consumption site. Who knows? The province just needs to loosen up the rules and allow a little common sense to prevail.

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Danielle Smith is host of The Danielle Smith Show on Global News Radio 770 Calgary. She can be reached at

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