Residents in Bridgeland aren’t very happy that a corner of a park in the community could become one of just four legal pot consumption zones in the city, and the area councillor is starting to question the city’s strategy.
The Bridgeland Riverside Community Association held a town hall on the matter Thursday night, and the association president, Brian Beck, said it was clear where just about everyone stood on the subject after a two-hour meeting.
“It was increasingly apparent as we went along that almost all of the conversation was adverse to this,” said Beck.
With the legalization of cannabis coming on Oct. 17, The City of Calgary has made it illegal to smoke the drug recreationally in public places. A process for creating legal spaces was set into motion, but only Ward 9 put forward spaces, and only four sites were suggested.
Resident met on Thursday night about the proposed site in Murdoch Park, at the south end of 7A Street NE.
Beck said they started with a 20-minute presentation with general information on how the city was dealing with legalization, before opening up the floor to questions.
“This wasn’t a meeting of people with pitchforks and torches, but it was a lot of discussion about all the different issues floating around this topic,” said Beck.
The deadline for online feedback about the four public consumption sites is Friday. Beck said there was a rush to hold the meeting before that deadline closed so that people could make informed comments.
He said the discussion was thoughtful and there was some talk about social equality issues, because people who don’t have a private backyard where they can legally smoke their cannabis could still face criminal charges for smoking in public.
“Otherwise it’s been this very loud chorus of people who think there’s a variety of reasons why this particular site doesn’t make sense,” said Beck.
Area Councillor GIan-Carlo Carra wasn’t at the meeting, but his office has been fielding correspondence from concerned citizens near all four of the proposed public consumption sites.
“The majority of what we’re getting is oppositional – on all of the spots,” he said.
He said there’s support in theory for public consumption sites, but it doesn’t translate into support in practice for the proposed sites.
“The other argument that’s really resonating with me is if there were spots like this all over the city, and you were able to disperse use all over the city, that would be doing what council had in mind,” said Carra.
Carra was the first councillor to raise his hand and work with administration on developing the public sites, but he was also the only councillor to do so.
He said with literally four spots for a city of over one million people, nearby residents are understandably concerned.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do, but to pass one or two spots doesn’t make sense to me,”said Carra
He also noted that people have already been smoking it illegally for years and will probably continue to do so.
“Lounges are absolutely required but solving that is going to take a while,” he said.