As the City of Calgary prepares for the country-wide legalization of marijuana this summer, the views of local residents on where pot should be sold or consumed will be considered so that future pot bylaws reflect a “Calgary context,” according to the city.
Speaking Monday to reporters about the results of the city’s Cannabis Research Combined Study released last week, Matt Zabloski, the lead for the city’s cannabis legalization project, said residents’ opinions are just some of the many factors that will be weighed.
“As much as we can do the best practises research and we can take input from the federal task force, we want to have something that’s specific to Calgary,” said Zabloski, adding that decisions of other cities and local council discussions will also have an impact. “We are going to make the decisions in a Calgary context. If other municipalities are all leaning one way, that’s something we’re going to take into account as well but we are going to make decisions that we feel are most appropriate for Calgary.”
The study, which was built on telephone surveys of more than 1,000 Calgarians, as well as focus groups and in-depth interviews, found that a quarter of Calgarians would be users or potential users of cannabis once it is legal. About 55 per cent of Calgarians support legalizing cannabis, which is in line with the national 56 per cent average.
The study also explored debates on how retailers should operate, finding that the majority of Calgarians want cannabis stores located a certain minimum distance from schools, vulnerable populations and other cannabis retailers.
Zabloski said city staff would bring proposed land use bylaw amendments to city council’s Planning and Urban Development Committee on Feb. 21. The committee will then make recommendations based on the report and forward those up to council.
On April 3, city staff will also bring recommendations on issues such as licensing and public consumption to the Community and Protective Services Committee, which will then also make recommendations to city council.
Council will then meet April 5, when it will hopefully make decisions and vote on potential bylaws, said Zabloski.
While many of the restrictions and regulations concerning marijuana will be decided in a national or provincial context, individual municipalities will have the ability to regulate things like where cannabis stores are placed, what business licensing will look like for stores and the enforcement surrounding these issues.
Provincial regulations for Alberta have also laid out that municipalities will have the ability to further regulate certain issues surrounding public consumption, according to Zabloski.
“The Province of Alberta has indicated they’re going to treat this a lot like tobacco with some consideration for areas where children may be present, but they have left the door open for municipalities to treat it to be further regulated if they want to,” he said.
The study found that 55 per cent of Calgarians feel public consumption of marijuana should more closely resemble that of alcohol than tobacco when it comes to regulation. About 55 per cent feel it should be treated more like alcohol, wanting restrictions on where pot could be smoked in public spaces, while just 32 per cent said the city should treat it like tobacco.
Other elements of the study focused on enforcement expectations and home growth of cannabis.
Nearly one-third of current cannabis users expect to be able to grow their own plants, while at least 80 per cent of legalization opponents indicated they were concerned about smoking and processing odours, as well as break-ins, when it comes to home growth of plants.
More than half of study participants (54 per cent) expect flexibility regarding enforcement of cannabis consumption laws and restrictions, while 44 per cent expect strict enforcement through additional city bylaw officers.
The study’s margin of error was +/-3.1 per cent at the 95 per cent confidence level.