Future of cannabis lounges in Edmonton remains up in the air

Daniel Jordan, of Tampa, Fla., left, Giobanni Turner, St. Albans, N.Y., center, and Frankie Turck , of Denver, smoke marijuana at iBake smoking lounge on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 in Denver. Joe Mahoney, The Canadian Press

The future of cannabis consumption lounges or cafes in Edmonton will rely on regulations by higher levels of government, according to a report to be discussed by a city committee next week.

In November, city administration was tasked with looking into what it would take for cannabis lounges to be allowed to set up in Edmonton. The request came following the legalization of cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals on Oct. 17, 2019.

According to the report, any changes to the city’s current cannabis regulations, or implementation of new regulations, must align with federal and provincial legislation.

The Alberta government and Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission (AGLC) have not yet developed regulations for such cafes and lounges, according to city administration.

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“As such, cannabis consumption lounges or cafes (smoking and/or edibles) are not allowed in Alberta,” according to the report.

Alberta Treasury Board and Finance spokesperson Jerrica Goodwin said Friday the government is not currently considering changes to the existing legislation to include cannabis lounges or cafes.

Click to play video: 'What you need to know about cannabis edibles'
What you need to know about cannabis edibles

The city said that if the province amends cannabis regulations, there could be opportunities for existing businesses — like restaurants and cafes — to sell cannabis edibles as a “secondary activity.”

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“This approach could be permitted if the province enables the sale and consumption of cannabis edibles in a manner similar to how alcoholic beverages are allowed in restaurants and food establishments,” the report reads. “There could also be an opportunity for growth in the packaging and distributing sectors.”

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The city would require “sufficient time” to publically consult, develop and enact municipal bylaws should the province establish new regulations, administration said.

Administration also looked at what other provinces in Canada are doing when it comes to legislating cannabis lounges. Currently, cannabis lounges are not allowed anywhere in Canada.

A scan of regulations in areas where cannabis is legal in the United States found that while some states allow cannabis lounges, cannabis products are not allowed to be served in the same location as alcohol.

“Some states have a physical separation of cannabis consumption areas and alcohol consumption areas as a standard requirement, and cannabis lounges are allowed to supplement their offerings with non-cannabis infused food and beverages,” the report reads.

In 2018, city staff outlined four criteria to help guide the development of city regulations around cannabis:

  • public health and safety
  • business friendly
  • balanced approach to community livability
  • drug, alcohol and tobacco free youth

As of Dec. 6, 2019, administration had approved 175 development permits for cannabis retail stores in Edmonton and issued 69 cannabis retail business licences.

The report will be discussed by the community and public services committee next Wednesday.

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