No toking in public under proposed Calgary bylaws

Under the proposed rules, no one will be able to "smoke, vape or consume cannabis in any public place." That goes further than recently released provincial laws.

A council committee will debate the new rules on Tuesday, covering business licences and consumption

Under new proposed rules, Calgarians would not be allowed to smoke marijuana in public. (CBC)

You won't be able to consume marijuana in public in Calgary under proposed new bylaws that will go before a council committee on Tuesday. 

Under the proposed rules, no one in Calgary will be able to "smoke, vape or consume cannabis in any public place." That goes further than recently released provincial laws. 

If you're caught consuming marijuana in public, you could receive a ticket and a fine.

Coun. Shane Keating said the restrictions are similar to what's in place for other substances, such as alcohol.

"You can't sit on a park bench in a city park and have a bottle or a can of beer or a bottle of wine," he told CBC News. "I don't see why you should be able to do the same thing with a cannabis cigarette or an edible at this point."

There are, however, two exceptions to the rule. 

Marijuana gardens

The first is if the person has a prescription for medical marijuana. Those people will be required to produce the prescription if asked by an officer.

The other exception is at events where a permit has been granted. Keating said the city will be working on permitting cannabis consumption at public events in designated spaces — similar to a beer garden.

"At public outdoor spaces we have to get it set up the same as we do with beer gardens, we could have cannabis gardens, those are perfectly acceptable at this point," he said. 

But there will be strict rules for those situations. 

For example, no sales of marijuana can take place in the same area set aside for consumption and that specified area has to be separate from areas set aside for drinking and for smoking.

Organizers would also have to ensure that children could not see any ads or other materials relating to marijuana consumption during the event. 

Businesses 

In addition to the rules around consumption, the committee will also discuss business licensing for those selling marijuana, as well as those producing it. 

City administration says new Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission rules around marijuana stores are stringent enough that licensing will be straightforward and in line with current rules around liquor store licences. 

No store or production facility will be allowed in residential homes or in any building in a residentially zoned area. 

Keating said the city may consider allowing cannabis lounges or bars in the future. 

Education first

Keith Fagin, director of the Calgary chapter of cannabis advocacy group 420 Cannabis Community, said the city is on the right track, however banning recreational pot use in public is overly restrictive. 

"To say that people can't consume it publicly if it's recreational is wrong, it's just a little too hard-headed," he said. 

Recreational cannabis users should be able to consume in certain public spaces, similar to cigarette smokers, he added. 

"I understand that they're going to be more restrictive and it's easier to relax the rules later rather than make them more restrictive later, but we do need to be careful that way and allow people to consume where say cigarette smokers are consuming," he said. "But we also need to educate and ask people to be responsible with their consumption of cannabis."

However at this point, his organization is focusing on educating non-users about the about the science behind marijuana, and the benefits users claim to get from pot rather than lobbying for laxer rules on consumption.

Surveys

The city said it consulted extensively, including a phone survey of 1,002 Calgarians and an online feedback form that garnered more than 15,000 responses. 

If passed by council, the new rules around consumption would come into effect as soon as federal legislation makes recreational marijuana legal. 

City administration suggests new licensing rules should come into effect on April 24 so that business owners have some clarity and the city can start the process of accepting applications. 

With files from Elissa Carpenter, Jessica Barrett