How Alberta's national park resorts and towns plan to handle cannabis legalization

Smoking or vaping pot in Alberta's National Park towns won't be easy for residents or those visiting to enjoy mountain views.

Lake Louise Ski Resort has heard from guests that cannabis smoke doesn't fit a 'healthy outdoor lifestyle'

Lake Louise Ski Resort says there are places you can smoke, no matter the substance. But when legalisation comes around, the resort is likely to tighten rules, not loosen them. (Chris Moseley/Lake Louise Ski Resort)

Smoking or vaping pot in Alberta's national park towns won't be easy for residents or those visiting to enjoy mountain views.

Shying away from becoming cannabis tourist attractions, Jasper and Banff township officials say they're regulating pot for the comfort and protection of their residents.

Both municipalities have chosen to ban smoking and vaping cannabis in public. 

Not looking at tourism 

Jasper is defining public space the same way it is written in the liquor act, meaning: you can't smoke or vape in any vehicle in a public place or building accessible to the public. Mayor Richard Ireland underlines that includes parking lots. 

"I don't think that anybody's looking at it in terms of an advantage for tourism," he said "We approach this on the basis that we are locally elected by residents. And our primary focus is on our residents."

But the town is leaving a door open for businesses, like hoteliers or private landowners, to apply and have their properties exempt from the rules. 

"We do recognize, of course, most of our residents are in one way or another engaged in the tourism industry," Ireland said. "But the primary impact is not to find places for tourists to consume. But to safeguard our community." 

He said the town may also offer up municipal lands for public pot consumption — but the town doesn't yet have a concept or plan for what that might look like. 

Banff's approach is similar, but they aren't leaving the door open in bylaws for public places to consume.

'There may be other methods'

Alison Gerrits, director of community services with the town, said the municipality is taking a cautious public health approach to cannabis.

"When recreational cannabis becomes legal, there will be many other methods for consumption that aren't all combustible methods," she said. "So if individuals want to consume cannabis in their hotel rooms, or in their private residences, they can do so so long as they're following the rules of the of the places that they're in." 

She said, for example, in hotel rooms there may be opportunities for tourists and visitors to use oils or other methods to get high. 

People come for 'fresh mountain air'

Gerrits said Banff didn't want to create pot tourism opportunities like Colorado.

"The perspective that we got was people wanted to come to the National Park for all the things that the National Park has to offer," said Gerrits. "Including our many of the outdoor amenities and the fresh mountain air." 

As for mountain resorts, Lake Louise is treating marijuana like cigarette smoke. 

Smoking is currently restricted on the mountain in most areas.

Dan Markham, the director of brand and communications at Lake Louise Ski Resort said they do have places in parking lots where it's ok to smoke or vape, but in summer there are fire hazard concerns and in the winter they like to keep smoking minimal so that everyone can enjoy the mountain without breathing in the hazy air.

Still spots where you can smoke at resort

"At this point in time there will be spots where people can smoke — regardless of what they're smoking," Markham said. "We're not prepared at this point and time to loosen the rules we have at this point." 

He said the resort has heard from guests that taking in mountain views is nicer without tokers around because it doesn't jive with the "healthy outdoor lifestyle."

Parks Canada hasn't released their cannabis rules yet, and towns like Banff and Jasper may tweak their respective laws to match once those become public because they would set a precedent for what's ok, and what's not, in the protected parks.

With files from Tiphanie Roquette


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