Fort McMurray pot smoking restrictions among 'strongest' in Alberta, advocacy group says

Pot users will not be allowed to light up or vape in public spaces in the Fort McMurray region.

Municipality joins other centres which have banned smoking and vaping in public places

Wood Buffalo municipality is banning cannabis use in public places. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)

Fort McMurray's restrictions on cannabis consumption are among the strictest in Alberta, a lobby group said Tuesday, after council voted to ban pot users from smoking or vaping in all public spaces within the Wood Buffalo region.

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo approved three bylaws on Monday that will regulate where marijuana can be used and sold, and how stores will be licensed.

The smoking and vaping bylaws also prohibit the use of cannabis in transit facilities. Any place the public has access to, including bars and restaurants will also be off-limits. Those same rules already applied to smoking and vaping tobacco. 

"We are treating it very similar to alcohol in that respect," said Brad McMurdo, the municipality's acting director of planning and development.

"However, residents will still be able to vape or smoke within the personally owned or rented spaces, notwithstanding any concerns raised through condo boards, condo bylaws and the tenancy act," he said.

Bylaws among the 'strongest'

The advocacy group Action on Smoking and Health said the region will have bylaws among the "strongest" in the province.

"It is a stellar job," ASH spokesperson Les Hagen told municipal council Monday. "It will be one of the most progressive bylaws in Canada to deal with cannabis consumption and all forms of smoking and vaping, in fact."​

Hagen said Camrose and Lloydminster also have tough bylaws on smoking and vaping. Leduc adopted a similar bylaw in June preventing smoking in public places.

Tough rules are needed, he said, because smoking and vaping tobacco or marijuana normalizes smoking for children, who might think its cool.

Municipal councillors also voted to limit the cultivation of cannabis to four plants inside an apartment, home or backyard.

Under the bylaw, marijuana retailers cannot, in most cases, be within 150 metres of educational institutions, hospitals, residential areas or drug-and-alcohol-rehabilitation centres, though in rural areas the buffer zone will be relaxed to 100 metres.

Interest in the cannabis business in Fort McMurray is building ahead of legalization in October. The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission has already received 12 applications to sell cannabis, McMurdo said.

Fort McMurray #468 First Nation has also said it will be constructing a cannabis production facility.

Connect with David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca 


David Thurton is a national reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He's worked for CBC in Fort McMurray, the Maritimes and in Canada's Arctic.