News / Edmonton

Not here, man: City debates where residents can smoke and sell cannabis

Coun. Scott McKeen says lack of cafes and vaping lounges could make things tricky

Cannabis flowers are displayed for sale at the Berkeley Patients Group dispensary Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, in Berkeley, Calif.

Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

Cannabis flowers are displayed for sale at the Berkeley Patients Group dispensary Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, in Berkeley, Calif.

If not there, then where?

Edmonton city councillors are grappling with where people will be allowed to sell and smoke cannabis when legalization kicks in this summer.

Coun. Scott McKeen, chair of the committee that discussed the issue Wednesday, said the city has to be careful not to put too many limitations on where people can spark up.

Higher orders of government have said there will be no edible or vaping lounges when legalization first takes effect. Coupled with indoor smoking bans, potential smoking bans from landlords, and other restrictions, McKeen said that could leave people with few options.

“The province has not yet found places where people can consume this in a hospitality area, for example, whether that’s downtown or Whyte Avenue or 124 Street. Are they going to have to stand out on a sidewalk or a back alley?" he said.

"We can’t, in effect, make it impossible to consume it if it’s legal.”

McKeen also expressed concerns around dispensaries being located too close to bars, however, saying it could be problematic to encourage the use of cannabis and liquor at the same time.

But if a dispensary has to be 200 metres from a bar, he added, it could be tough to find a spot in a commercial area like Whyte Avenue.

“We still are in a little bit of a state of confusion or complexity as to the way it will all shake down, as far as where can they be located," McKeen said.

The Alberta government is not regulating how far cannabis stores should be from liquor stores, and the province is allowing municipalities to tweak its 100-metre buffer between stores and schools or healthcare facilities.

City administration will start gathering public feedback on distances later this week.

A public opinion survey of more than 4,100 Edmontonians, released Wednesday, showed less than 40 per cent were concerned about how close cannabis stores will be to each other, but about 60 per cent want cannabis stores to be more than 200 metres from schools, community centres, parks and playgrounds.

Just less than 50 per cent strongly or somewhat agree that adults should “be able to smoke and vape cannabis in the same public places you can smoke tobacco.”

City administration estimates legalization will cost $4.3 million including changes to things like zoning, business licences and waste management bylaws.

The Edmonton Police Service is asking for an additional $5 million to $7 million to support 25 to 35 new officers for anticipated increases in impaired driving, home grows and other issues around legalization.

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