Plan for pot Con­sump­tion sites goes up in smoke

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - ZACH LAING [email protected] On Twit­ter: @zjlaing

The City of Cal­gary’s plans to have four pub­lic cannabis con­sump­tion sites by the Oct. 17 le­gal­iza­tion of recre­ational cannabis have gone up in smoke.

The four pro­posed sites — in In­gle­wood, Bridge­land and Og­den — would have been ex­empted from the ban on pub­lic use in the Cannabis Con­sump­tion By­law.

The by­law pro­hibits the con­sump­tion of recre­ational cannabis in any form (smok­ing, va­p­ing or ed­i­bles) in pub­lic places.

“This de­ci­sion was made af­ter care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of the feed­back given by more than 1,800 Cal­gar­i­ans,” said Matt Zabloski, the city’s lead for the cannabis le­gal­iza­tion project, adding that there is no chance a pub­lic con­sump­tion site will be in place by Oct. 17.

“They gave us feed­back on­line and at sound­ing boards lo­cated at the pro­posed lo­ca­tions. The pub­lic en­gage­ment on these four pro­posed des­ig­nated ar­eas re­vealed sup­port, but also sig­nif­i­cant op­po­si­tion.”

Among the op­posed opin­ions, Zabloski said they heard a va­ri­ety of con­cerns.

“They cov­ered both things like nui­sance and over-con­cen­tra­tion in one par­tic­u­lar ward,” he said, adding con­cern about im­paired driv­ing arose, too.

Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said among the 1,800 pieces of feed­back they re­ceived, roughly a quar­ter were pos­i­tive, while “a solid three-quar­ters or more were op­posed.”

Carra’s ini­tial hope was that the cannabis con­sump­tion sites would have reached ev­ery com­mu­nity, but it was short-lived when no other mem­ber of coun­cil came to of­fer an area.

“My hope was that we would ba­si­cally go to ev­ery com­mu­nity and say, ‘hey, where would you like your bench?’ ” said Carra, of benches the city wanted to in­stall to sig­nify cannabis con­sump­tion lo­ca­tions.

“In­stead, what we got was we ran the num­bers, the cri­te­ria . . . in the mid­dle of Au­gust and spat out four places in the mid­dle of my en­tire ward where an area met the cri­te­ria.

“On top of that, I found out I was the only mem­ber of coun­cil to ask for that to hap­pen.”

Coun­cil mem­bers still have an op­por­tu­nity to des­ig­nate cannabis con­sump­tion sites in their re­spec­tive wards, and pub­lic en­gage­ment would oc­cur if that hap­pens.

The lat­est move leaves some with­out the op­por­tu­nity to con­sume le­gal cannabis.

“I think this is a real mes­sage to ev­ery­one that rolling out the le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis with­out the op­por­tu­nity for cafes or lounges is a deeply prob­lem­atic sit­u­a­tion,” Carra said.

“Not hav­ing a le­gal place to use a le­gal sub­stance just shoves this into a grey zone, which is not re­ally what the le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis, as I see it, is sup­posed to be.”

Pub­lic en­gage­ment took place from Aug. 27 to Sept. 7.

The city will re­lease a re­port in the com­ing weeks at en­gage.cal­gary.ca/cannabisAreas.

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