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Calgary committee approves cannabis amendment allowing pot areas at festivals and events

Festivals in Calgary are one step closer to having marijuana consumption areas after amendments to the city’s Cannabis Consumption bylaw were approved at committee Wednesday.

City of Calgary administration provided an overview of the issue, having met with the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC), Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Alberta Cannabis Secretariat (ACS) on the issue of public use at these events.

According to the administration report, the AGLC wouldn’t license festivals to temporarily sell marijuana at these sites, and AHS held firm that they didn’t agree with the public consumption in these situations but would work with the city should they decide to move ahead.

Committee members heard that there are few, if any, problems related to cannabis consumption at these events.

“We have had pot smoking happening at Folk Fest and many other festivals for years and years and years, and it has been without problem,” said Coun. Woolley, who voted against the amendment based on concern that it was over-regulation.

“It’s been without problem because we, as humans living in a city together, have greater capacity to self-regulate.

“I think that this is a solution in search of a problem.”

Woolley referred to comments earlier in the committee meeting by Calgary Police Commission Chair Brian Thiessen, who expressed concern that municipal marijuana over-regulation would create additional work for police.

Also at issue was the site licensing, with Coun. Jyoti Gondek comparing it to a beer garden, where beer is available for sale on the premises. AGLC won’t be allowing the sale of pot on these sites, the city said.

“My greatest issue is, at a beer garden you can only consume the liquor that you purchase on site. It has to be licensed. Here, you can walk in with whatever you want to and all of the liability is going to be assumed by the individual hosting the cannabis garden.” Gondek said.

The amendment does require events to submit a plan for their cannabis areas, subject to review and approval by the city’s Interdepartmental Events Team. Administration said the amendment would allow them to monitor the effect of the changes to the bylaw and report back in Q4 of 2019.