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City of Calgary Will Not Move Forward with Plans for Public Pot Consumption Sites

Opponents of public cannabis consumption flooded public comments and placed signs reading “Weed rather not” at proposed sites.

Adam Drury

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City of Calgary Will Not Move Forward with Plans for Public Pot Consumption Sites
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With adult-use legalization taking effect across Canada in just over a month (Oct. 17), provinces are still ironing out the final wrinkles in their cannabis policies. Under Canada’s Bill C-45, individual provinces can set their own policies regarding possession and use restrictions, business licensing and other measures. And in the province of Alberta, individual municipalities also have leeway to establish their own rules. In the lead-up to the full implementation of Bill C-45, however, a few concerns remain sticking points, with perhaps the most contentious being the issue of public consumption.

Calgary Drops Plans for Public Cannabis Consumption Sites

The City of Calgary’s bylaws prohibit the public consumption of cannabis. Privately-owned residences, like apartment buildings and condos, can decide whether to allow cannabis consumption or not. That creates a problem for cannabis consumers. If a building has a cannabis ban, and there’s nowhere to go smoke in public, where can residents safely and lawfully consume cannabis?

To address the potentially serious issue, Calgary proposed setting up four public cannabis consumption sites across the city. These zones would permit the lawful consumption of cannabis products by anyone 18 years and older.

But during the public commentary period about the sites, which ran from Aug. 27 to Sept. 7, voices opposed to public cannabis consumption vastly outnumbered support for it.

Calgary Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra represents Ward 9, where all four proposed sites are located. Carra told the CBC that about 75 percent of public comments opposed the public consumption sites. Those opposed also got their message out by posting signs in the designated areas that lampooned the idea of public weed.

“Pot in this park? Don’t doob it,” and “Weed rather not” signs dotted the hillside of a proposed public cannabis site at Murdoch Park in Bridgeland. “Keep off the grass,” others read. As a result, the City of Calgary vetoed the four proposed sites. At the moment, no other locations are on the table.

Public Cannabis Consumption Is Still a Possibility in Calgary

Despite the veto, public consumption could still become a reality in Calgary. City officials selected the initial group of four sites based on how well they fit the city’s bylaws. The two sites in Inglewood, one in Bridgeland and one in Ogden were all green spaces or parks at a safe distance from schools, children and natural areas.

But residents took issue with the accessibility and concentration of the proposed sites. They don’t want Calgary’s Ward 9 to become the cannabis hub for the entire city, and would prefer a more diffuse network of sites.

Councillors worry that locking people out of legal cannabis consumption spaces will force them into a legal grey area. So they’re still going to continue work on proposing public consumption sites. Citizens will still be able to weigh on on the proposals. Possibly, those in favor of public smoking and vaping didn’t realize they had to be vocal about permitting the legal consumption of a legal substance.

Indeed, Carra told the CBC that many of the people who opposed the sites also opposed legal weed overall. If those who support legalization make their voices heard during the process, public consumption stands a better chance in Calgary. Councillor Carra also hopes Alberta will reconsider its ban on cannabis lounges.

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