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City staff tell Edmonton councillors to hold off on cannabis lounge bylaw

Edmonton could allow cannabis lounges once marijuana is legal
WATCH (June 23, 2017): Once marijuana is legalized, Edmontonians may be able to use the drug in cannabis lounges. The federal government says weed will be legal by next July and the city is looking to change zoning bylaws ahead of the change. As Fletcher Kent reports, the discussions will be complex.

The idea of cannabis lounges in Edmonton got an airing out by city councillors on the community services committee on Wednesday. But any hope the industry would get a foot in the door in Edmonton didn’t pan out.

Councillors heard that city staff are reluctant to create a new bylaw because “the government of Alberta and Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission have not yet developed regulations for cannabis lounges or cafes,” said the report they were reviewing.

“Any bylaw changes would be done blindly,” said David Aitkin, the city’s branch manager for community standards.

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READ MORE: Future of cannabis lounges in Edmonton remains up in the air

He said city staff have reviewed what has gone on elsewhere in terms of rules and licensing.

“We certainly learned a lot relative to cannabis lounges, cafes, separation distances, setback distances, age limitations.

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“I think we have the framework for application when and if it came through. However I do think that beginning those discussions now, without any idea of federal or provincial changes, would create some expectations, especially when the timeline may be pushed out several years.”

Alberta government outlines areas where public cannabis use is banned
Alberta government outlines areas where public cannabis use is banned

Representatives from two industry players made their pitch to the councillors, suggesting that the food and beverage industry wants to prepare for when the day comes that government will allow lounges and cafes.

“There’s a lot of restaurants that have talked about policy scenarios,” said Lisa Campbell, the co-chair of the Cannabis Beverage Producers Alliance.

“Where you have a two-floor venue, one floor having a liquor licence and the second floor having a cannabis licence.

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“Depending on what floor you’re dining, you can have access to either beverage.”

READ MORE: Council to look at creating rules for Edmonton cannabis lounges

They made it clear that in no way do they want it so that alcohol and cannabis could be mixed.

However Nathan Mison, from Fire and Flower and the chair of the Alberta Cannabis Council, told reporters there’s pent-up demand for products that aren’t smoked.

“It could be a drink. It could be an edible. If you didn’t want to use a combustible, you can have those products.”

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Mison said a good first step would be to introduce a special event, one-time licence, before expanding into full-time lounges.

“You could see that at the Fringe or Folk Festival, and that’s something that can be done fairly quickly.”

READ MORE: Edmonton festivals ditch beer gardens and loosen restrictions on where alcohol can be consumed

Neither Campbell or Mison were disappointed that the committee didn’t take any action, knowing that no government wants to be first out of the chute on such a new product.

The report shied away from predicting potential economic benefits, saying establishing “cannabis lounges are speculative and rely on federal or provincial legislative change.”