Calgary votes to ban public pot consumption

Calgary's city council has voted to ban the consumption of cannabis in public places once pot is legalized, similar to the ban on public consumption of alcohol.

Cannabis lounges will be illegal, too

Calgary council has voted to ban the public consumption of cannabis. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Calgary's city council has voted to ban the consumption of cannabis in public places once pot is legalized, similar to the ban on public consumption of alcohol.

Council voted 10-4, with only Couns. George Chahal, Joe Magliocca, Ward Sutherland and Evan Woolley voting against. 

The new Cannabis Consumption Bylaw makes it illegal to consume non-medical cannabis in any form, including smoking, vaping or edibles.

Woolley said he's disappointed in the decision, which he argues effectively bans cannabis consumption for tourists to the city as well as renters, who make up 36 per cent of residents.

"We are going to have a communications challenge. You come to the city and you're a tourist, going to the mountains to ski — which we are working really hard to get you to do — and you go and buy weed legally in a store and you go to ask where you can consume that and we say 'nowhere'? We have a problem there," he said.

"Effectively, we are saying that there is no space for you to consume cannabis and that is a problem for me."

Woolley compared the ban to the time in the city's history when smoking was outlawed on patios, so Calgarians had to smoke inside.

"That was nonsensical," he said.

But Coun. Peter Demong disagreed.

"The concept that the vast majority of a certain population doesn't have access to a private property I find a little bit difficult. I can't imagine there being an incredibly large amount of locations that doesn't have access to a balcony," he said.

"Now I'm not saying it's perfect, but the fact of the matter is if ... if you're going to make alcohol free to drink as you're walking down a street and you're going to make cannabis an option while you're in a public area, it's not often that somebody's going to spill their beer enough into my mouth to change my state of mind."

Cannabis lounges won't be allowed under provincial legislation.

"It's certainly something we would have preferred to see in step with legalization to allow for that consumption to happen in a public setting," Matt Zabloski with Calgary's Cannabis Legalization Project told the Calgary Eyeopener.

Public smoking would be a nuisance, says Nenshi

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said every U.S. state that has legalized pot has similar rules.

"Now in Colorado and in California they have actually banned public consumption, and things are fine and there's a thriving industry ... people figure it out," he said. 

"I think it's far better to set the rules and make exceptions to people that need them, rather than make a grand exception for everyone which would lead to public nuisance problems for everybody."

Exemptions will apply for medical cannabis users.

A proposal that would have allowed dedicated consumption areas at events, like beer gardens, has been pushed back for further research.

Council also approved zoning rules for cannabis stores. The city said it will start to take applications from interested retailers on April 24 so stores have time to get set up before legalization, which is expected to go through in summer 2018.

The city will be hosting a live feed to explain how business applications for cannabis stores will work on April 16 on its website.

With files from Scott Dippel