Exploring public cannabis use in Inglewood, Ogden & Bridgeland-Riverside
In Calgary, public consumption rules for cannabis will be similar to those for public consumption of alcohol. Under the new Cannabis Consumption Bylaw, it will be illegal to consume cannabis in any form (smoking, vaping, or edibles) in public places, except for designated cannabis consumption areas, while its allowed to be used on private property.
The problem we have to solve
At this time, there are no smoking lounges, cafes or specialized bars in which cannabis may be used which creates a challenge that must be resolved. While according to provincial regulations, cannabis may be used in some public places, the Government of Alberta has given The City of Calgary the ability to further prohibit public consumption – and The City has done so primarily to protect underage public health.
Because landlord and tenant agreements, condo bylaws, and hotel rules may prohibit cannabis consumption (City of Calgary Bylaws do prohibit it), some citizens and visitors to Calgary may not have a legal place to legally use cannabis. From The City’s decision to prohibit public consumption of cannabis, it has put many Calgarians in a gray-zone and made it almost impossible for them to adhere to this bylaw and not to break the law.
This state of affairs is problematic and unfair to those Calgarians.
Taking a leadership role for Calgarians
While I am not an advocate for these public consumption areas, I support Council’s decision to explore these public use sites in theory. I’m of the opinion that if you have a legal substance but you bar its legal to use, that’s an oxymoron.
If there is nowhere to use cannabis for these Calgarians, we may reinforce and exacerbate activities that are present now. Staying this course could make the Bylaw and its enforcement challenging and proliferate public consumption of cannabis – something Calgarians have said they do not want.
With that in mind, a potential middle-ground (in the absence of cannabis lounges) is being explored. The Cannabis Consumption Bylaw allows Council to approve designated areas where cannabis may be smoked, vaped, or otherwise consumed in specific public places. These designated cannabis consumption areas are to help alleviate the lack of access to a permissible place to consume cannabis once it’s legal.
Taking charge to strengthen our communities
Understanding the challenges above and the gap between policy and practicality, City Administration is exploring the idea of piloting designated cannabis consumption areas in Ward 9, where in theory it may make sense to have one location per community. This proposed pilot project is meant to be an exercise in being proactive and empowering you through strengthening local governance and directing the future of your neighbourhoods by enabling you to have a greater voice in mitigating potentially aggravating behaviours in the community. Please take advantage of it.
We must take charge to address this gap to avoid the negative repercussions discussed above and mitigating against social disorder that the bylaw and policy, as it currently stands, could exacerbate. Once again, Ward 9 is at the forefront in finding a solution for the benefit of Calgary. Rather than doing nothing, thinking this problem will solve itself and go away, we must address this issue head on through thoughtful conversations, empathy and compassion for our neighbours, and the benefit of our communities.
Potential areas are carefully considered as we need them to be a minimum distance from schools, playgrounds, off leash areas, safety hazards, and not within sensitive natural areas. Each potential designated cannabis consumption area will be confined to a defined radius and equipped with waste receptacles and tamper-proof ashtrays. If the areas are approved and up and running, the City of Calgary may suspend locations should there be safety or nuisance concerns.
Where can these proposed sites go?
The viability of potential designated cannabis consumption areas is measured through criteria which address the location’s accessibility, safety, and proximity to sensitive land uses. The potential designated areas would have the following separation distances:
- 150 m from a school
- 100 m from areas intensively used by children, including playgrounds, sport fields, spaces with play amenities, or family-friendly attractions
- Not within off-leash areas
- Not within a sensitive natural area
- Not in an area where other site users must pass to access another part of the site (e.g. pathways or park entrance)
- 30 m from any safety hazards
- 30 m from residences
Proposed locations of potential cannabis use sites
11 Ave, between 11 and 12 St SE
- This area is located behind Festival Hall, and if placed near the south side, would be over 40m from residents.
Wildlands Parking Lot
- If placed in the southernmost parking lot, this location would be over 100m from residents. To protect the natural environment, the area should not extend south of the pathway around the parking lot.
Murdoch Park (Southern end of 7A Street NE)
- If placed just south of the pathway this area would be 50m from any residences and nearby apartments.
Millican-Ogden (North of Shopping Centre at Glenmore Trail and Ogden Road)
- This area is just north of a shopping centre that holds the Glenmore Inn and Convention Centre which may have tourists. If located on the south portion of the field it would be over 100m from any residences
Next steps in creating our future
I want to be clear that nothing is written in stone and no public consumption areas are set. The City and I need your feedback in order to help us navigate this challenge and as the people who know your communities best, we’re relying on you to guide us to make the best decision for the benefit of all Calgarians.
I am aware of the preliminary opposition to this idea and appreciate the voices of those who do not think public consumption spaces are a good idea. I am also aware of the public support for these public consumption spaces and I’m looking forward to seeing how the conversation between neighbours in communities develops as we speak with each other.
Have your ideas heard and counted
Public engagement for these potential designated cannabis consumption areas is slated to begin today on August 27 and would take place for two weeks, ending on September 7. You will be able to take part in this engagement process by visiting on-location sounding boards and filling out the feedback forms, or by visiting the Engage web page, where feedback may be left online. I encourage you to participate and provide rationale and potential solutions. While social media is a good place to share your ideas and thoughts, I implore you to have them officially recorded by using the Engage web page.
The results of these engagement efforts will be brought to a Public Meeting of Council on October 9, at which you may speak. This timeline is in place to address the potential of having areas ready for use by the federal legalization date of October 17, 2018.
I’m very proud to be the City Councillor for East Calgary and I’m happy to continue building Great Neighbourhoods with you.