Calgary prepares for future with legalized marijuana

Calgary city council spent a few hours Monday talking about the challenges the city will face as marijuana is legalized in Canada.

Official from pot-friendly Denver addresses council on experiences in Colorado

Nenshi expects pot industry to mirror beer industry after legalization comes into effect

7 years ago
Duration 0:26
Mayor Naheed Nenshi says there are a number of issues the city must deal with to prepare for the legal sale, distribution and use of marijuana.

Eighteen cannabis stores opened in Denver, Colo. the day recreational marijuana sales became legal in that state three years ago, an official told Calgary city council on Monday.

Now Denver boasts 295 licensed grow ops, 219 retail stores, 84 medical marijuana outlets and 10 testing facilities. 

Councillors invited Denver city official Dan Rowland to talk about that city's experiences with legal cannabis as Calgary prepares for the possibility of legalized marijuana in Canada. 

Ottawa's bill on pot legalization is expected in June and might be passed by the end of year.

The City of Calgary created a special panel made up of police officers, Alberta Health Services experts and Rowland to help provide council with policy advice should the bill becomes law.

The city's role in that new legal landscape would include oversight of retail store locations and growing operations, and handling any related nuisance complaints. 

In Denver, the city hired 60 new people to help it deal with businesses related to marijuana.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi isn't sure that will be necessary in Calgary. 

"I'm not particularly interested in hiring a whole bunch of people at the city to manage this, but the real issue I think is getting the regulation right so that our existing business license inspectors, and so on, can actually do their work," he said. 

Nenshi also wants to ensure the regulations are in place well ahead of time. 

"The most important thing is for the city to get ahead of this so we're not caught flat-footed and we're not having to, for example, close down dispensaries that have already opened once we put in restrictions on where you can retail," he said. 

Employees trim away leaves from marijuana plants to be packaged and sold at a dispensary in Colorado. Calgary is already planning for legalized marijuana. (Associated Press)

City wants say in business location

The mayor said city council will likely want to control where businesses selling marijuana are allowed to operate.

"There's a reason that we have rules around liquor stores and how close they can be to one another, as well as how close they can be to schools, for example," he said.

"So those are the sorts of things that we want to work out. Maybe we just use the same rules as for the liquor stores, maybe we come up with something different."