Edmonton councillors to consider long list of no-toke zones

City councillors are grappling with where, when and how people use recreational cannabis in public spaces in Edmonton.

Recreational cannabis use to be prohibited in Churchill Square, Fort Edmonton Park, Edmonton Valley Zoo

With the legalization of recreational cannabis on the horizon, Edmonton city council is considering how to regulate the drug in public places. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

City councillors are grappling with where, when and how people use recreational cannabis in public spaces in Edmonton.

"It's a real challenge, balancing the rights and interests of people," says Coun. Scott McKeen. "We have to get our regulations at an appropriate level." 

Provincial regulations already restrict smoking or vaping cannabis in the same way as tobacco, though they further limit use around children and youth. 

The long list of no-toke zones under consideration include:

  • Family-friendly attractions, such as Churchill Square, Fort Edmonton Park and the Edmonton Valley Zoo.
  • Hospital, school or child-care facility properties.
  • Playgrounds, sports fields, skate parks, outdoor pools and splash pads, cemeteries, golf courses, skating rinks and off-leash areas.

Solidifying the list, expected to happen over the next month, will be a balancing act, McKeen said.

Coun. Scott McKeen says determining where, when and how people can use cannabis in Edmonton is a balancing act. (CBC)

McKeen said Alberta Health Services, which raises concerns about intoxication, secondhand smoke inhalation and the normalization for those underage, recommends starting out with more rigid rules. 

Council's community and public services committee will consider two options when discussing regulations Wednesday.

Two options

The more lenient option permits smoking and vaping in designated areas at festivals and on most parkland, as long as people are 30 metres away from amenities.

People would be allowed to light up on sidewalks, roadways and on public, private property, such as a mall, subject to rules enforced by landowners.

The stricter option would still allow people to smoke or vape in designated areas at festivals, but prohibiting the use of the drug on parkland containing amenities or in the river valley.

It would also bar recreational cannabis use from sidewalks, roadways and on public, private property. 

"As the culture rolls out, as the practice rolls out, as the business of it rolls out, we'll have a much better idea," McKeen said. "Things will change over time.

"We've heard in other jurisdictions that smoking of cannabis drops off very rapidly as the edibles and drinkables come in," he said.

McKeen said council will be scrambling to come up with regulations that accommodate bystanders but protects the rights of users.

"It's a challenge," he said.