Edmonton

Cannabis complaints in Edmonton puny compared to tobacco, report shows

The sight and smell of cannabis has had minimal impact on the public sphere since it was legalized in October 2018, a new City of Edmonton report shows. 

The 'cannabis apocalypse' expected by city administration hasn't happened

A city report shows the 10-metre rule created last fall led to the "unintended consequence" of an increase in cigarette butt litter in commercial areas. (The Canadian Press)

The sight and smell of cannabis is responsible for a tiny fraction of smoking complaints since being legalized in October 2018, a new City of Edmonton report shows. 

Between October 2018 and April 2019, city bylaw officers gave out six tickets for infractions related to cannabis, compared to 231 tickets for infractions related to tobacco, according to the report that will go to the community and public services committee meeting on July 10.

Coun. Scott McKeen said he's not surprised.

When the city started talking about adjusting bylaws to prepare for legalized recreational cannabis in October 2018, McKeen didn't expect a noticeable change in use or behaviour.

McKeen said city administration was instead preparing for the "cannabis apocalypse" or "reefer madness." 

"I don't want to say I told you so, but I told you so," McKeen said on Thursday. 

 
City bylaw issued six tickets for infractions related to cannabis use, compared to 231 for tobacco use between Oct. 2018 and Apr. 2019. (City of Edmonton)

Council amended the public places bylaw last fall, requiring smokers of both substances to be 10 metres from doors, patios, open windows and bus stops. The previous bylaw only required five metres.

McKeen said since October, he's had almost no complaints from constituents about cannabis use.

"If you've ever been camping way out in the wild, natural area, the background noise you get at night, that's what I've been hearing. Crickets."

The report also states that while the city received 2,567 complaints about smoking, only 120 of those were directly related to cannabis. 

McKeen noted that most people in entertainment districts in the evening — where drinking and smoking are more likely to occur — are not complaining. 

"If you're walking down Jasper Avenue or Whyte Avenue after nine o'clock at night and you experience that smell, or a door opens and you smell beer, that's not out of context," he suggested. "So maybe that's why we haven't had a lot of complaints."

Butting out

Cigarette butts are another matter. 

When the city changed its smoking bylaw in October and created the 10-metre rule, it removed nearly 200 ashtrays near bars, restaurants and retail shops. 

The report released Thursday confirms what CBC News reported in February — that removing and relocating ashtrays prompted smokers to butt out more on the ground. 

"An unintended consequence has been an increase in cigarette butt litter in some commercial areas," the report states. 

The Old Strathcona Business Association and the Downtown Business Association have noted more cigarette butt litter near many restaurants and bars.

The 124th Street Business Association said cigarette litter at bus stops has been a "major issue."  

The city is now exploring options to "increase waste receptacles without adding to any public confusion about where smoking is or is not permitted."

This year, the city also plans to promote personal pocket ashtrays and conduct a formal cigarette litter audit.

Since the bylaw came into effect last October, the city conducted several awareness campaigns, including "Share the Air" designed to explain the new rules. 

Administration plans to give city council an update on the program's progress in early 2020.

@natashariebe

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