One in four Calgarians say they likely will be users of recreational cannabis once it becomes legal in Canada this summer, according to recent citizen surveys conducted by the city. 

The city spent the past few months doing public engagement and research in an effort to gauge citizen's thoughts on legalized cannabis, to better shape Calgary bylaws ahead of federal legislation legalizing it in July.

"It's important for us to have the Calgary context," said Matt Zabloski, the lead for the city's cannabis legalization project.

"As much as we can do the best practices research and we can take input from the federal task force, we want to have something that's specific to Calgary and are going to be respondent to the concerns and values of Calgarians."

Between November 2017 and January 2018, the city polled citizens through a public online feedback form, focus groups, in-depth telephone interviews and targeting stakeholder workshops.

The online feedback form received the highest volume of citizen input in all of the city's engagement projects last year, with 45,000 visits and more than 15,000 contributions.

Views in line with Canada

The results found 55 per cent of respondents support legalization, which is in line with the overall Canadian population where an estimated 56 per cent of people support legal recreational cannabis.

Research results show 55 per cent of respondents think public use of pot should mirror the rules for consuming alcohol, while 32 per cent said it should be treated more like tobacco. 

Eighty-one per cent of people said they support cannabis retailers being a minimum distance away from schools and vulnerable populations, while 59 per cent said stores should have the same operating hours as liquor stores.

Matt Zabloski

Matt Zabloski is the lead for the city's cannabis legalization project. He says it's important the city has best interests of Calgarians in mind as they go forward with decisions on what legalized cannabis will look like. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Zabloski said while the province has indicated they intend to treat it more like tobacco — with some additional consideration for areas where children might be present — there is room for the city to shape its own approach.

"Municipalities across Alberta are going to have the ability to regulate perhaps where stores are placed, what business licensing is going to look like for stores, and of course just the enforcement of those as well," he said.​

The city is aiming to have all of its bylaws amended by April 5 and enacted shortly after.

The land use bylaw amendments will to go a council committee meeting next week.