Plan for pot Consumption sites goes up in smoke
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.