Calgary’s city council has approved bylaw amendments that limit marijuana use in public places and the plan also provides guidelines for cannabis retailers.

The federal government introduced legislation in April of 2017 to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Canada, which will come into effect later this year.

Since then, provinces and municipalities have been working to come up with plans to regulate its use and develop best practices for retailers.

On Thursday, Calgary city council voted ten to four to approve a Cannabis Consumption Bylaw and rules for Cannabis stores.

The city says the rules for using pot in public will be similar to those for consuming alcohol and that the smoking, vaping and eating of marijuana products in public places will be prohibited when cannabis is legalized.

“Fundamentally, we have two choices here, which is do you treat it like smoking or do you treat it like alcohol and I think everyone agrees, you shouldn’t be able to smoke marijuana or cannabis indoors in a public place, tick right? You should not be able to smoke it in a place where children are present, tick. So really, the only thing that is the difference between how we treat smoking and how we treat alcohol is can you smoke as you walk down the street and can you smoke in public parks? As far as I’m concerned I’m not particularly interested in seeing a lot of usage on the street or parks. I think there’s second-hand smoke issues, I think there’s public nuisance issues and I think there’s littering issues,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

People who are federally licensed to possess and use medical marijuana will be exempted from the bylaw and will be allowed to consume cannabis products in the same areas that are currently covered by the Smoking Bylaw.

A proposal for dedicated consumption areas at local events was not adopted and administration will continue to look into the possibility and come back to council with recommendations in the next few months.

The city says the rules align with other cities in North America that have legalized recreational use of cannabis.

Cannabis retailers will be required to follow similar rules used for liquor stores and will be controlled by a discretionary development permit process that will include notice postings and an appeal process.

Zoning rules for stores were also approved and the outlets can’t be within 150 metres of a school or emergency shelter or within 30 metres of a liquor store.

The city says more details on permits and the application process will be coming soon and that it will begin accepting applications for Cannabis Stores on April 24.

“What’s really important though for me, is something that was raised a little bit in the public hearing, is that we have to have very strict enforcement within those stores about selling to minors and it has to be very clear if you’re selling to minors then you are putting your licence at risk and I think that’s really, really important,” said Nenshi.

Officials will also host a Q & A session for anyone interested in opening a retail outlet on April 16 and will answer questions about the application process.

Angus Taylor is the CAO of NewLeaf Cannabis and says he is happy with the decisions that the city has made.

“We had developed something called a customer code of conduct, in fact, we were going to ban the consumption of the products that we sell on our properties itself so in some ways a city-wide ban, while I’m sure it will inconvenience many people and raises a lot of questions about how policing is going to done and how bylaw is going to enforce that ban, from our perspective it was something, we understand the nuisance factor of smelling cannabis in particular. Lots of people who don’t use the product don’t like the smell of it so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody that there’s concern about cannabis being smoked all over the city and that residents would rather ease into that, probably, than immediately open the flood gates,” he said.

NewLeaf has applied for 12 stores in Calgary and 22 across the province and Taylor says they researched models in other cities when they picked their spaces.

“We chose locations that were very conservative so we looked at others communities that had set-back requirements like Vancouver and Victoria and tried to model those in the selection of retail spaces,” said Taylor. “We would never sell products to someone that was intoxicated and we hope that our stores are eventually considered a strong part of the community.”

This weekend the Cannabis & Hemp Expo is on at Stampede Park and Olympian Ross Rebagliati, who owns Ross’ Gold, says he will be expanding his business into the Calgary market.

“We’re looking at the new guidelines coming in and day-by-day they’re unfolding so we’re all tuned in, ready go,” he said. “We’ve applied for the maximum allotment of dispensaries and so we have quite a lot of opportunities with the franchise model in Alberta and within Calgary.”

For more information on the city’s approach to the legalization of recreational cannabis, click HERE.

The Alberta Government also has guidelines for the introduction of the legislation, click HERE for more details.