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Cold Lake taking restrictive approach to cannabis use

After the federal government passed Bill 45, the legalization of cannabis, the City of Cold Lake started talking about its use in their community. Cannabis Open House
After months of discussion, the MD of Bonnyville has passed their cannabis consumption bylaw.

After the federal government passed Bill 45, the legalization of cannabis, the City of Cold Lake started talking about its use in their community.

Cold Lake has already passed their land use bylaw regulating recreational cannabis retail within the municipality, now they have to iron out the details on the use of the drug. On Tuesday, June 19, they got started  the conversation.

So far, they have confirmed they will be taking a more “restrictive” route when it comes to recreational cannabis consumption, meaning users will only be allowed to smoke, eat, vape, or bake the product on private property.

General manager of corporate services for the city, Linda Mortenson, explained, “It’s the most restrictive, so you won’t be able to consume any form of cannabis in any public places.”

That includes in a vehicle, retail outlet, park, and beach, among other public locations.

Where this gets complicated, Mortenson said, is when it comes to renters and condo boards.

“It may bring some issues because a landlord or condo association may put in rules that could enforce no cannabis use in their building. Even though cannabis is legal, there would be nowhere for anyone that lives in that type of facility to use it.”

The City of Calgary is considering their options, and playing with the idea of having designated area, Mortenson said, which is something Cold Lake could also consider.

For Coun. Kirk Soroka, it was an easy fix, if a tenant wants to smoke cannabis but lives in a building that doesn’t allow it, they can move.

He said cannabis lounges are “on the horizon,” and could one-day become an option for users who aren’t permitted to smoke on their property.

Coun. Duane Lay noted although someone may not be able to smoke cannabis in their residence, that doesn’t mean they can’t consume the drug in another form, such as baking.

“There are other ways of consuming cannabis than just smoking it. Smoking is regulated all over the city already. I think you have to keep all of those regulations the same for cannabis. Even at apartment buildings or condos, sure you might not be able to smoke, but if you want to consume cannabis there’s 1,000 other ways to do that.”

He added smoking marijuana is where the city will get the most complaints, because of the smoke itself.

“If you light up cannabis next to me, I’m not going to like it, but if you want to sit there and eat a brownie, I don’t care,” Lay expressed.

Public education will be another issue municipalities will face.

Mortenson is concerned about notifying visitors or the general public about the city’s choice in regulations, because they will vary so much across the province.

“How do you notify the public of the differences in regulations of different jurisdictions as they cross into new ones. That’s going to be the hardest thing, is educating the public on our ruling, which will be different from the Town and MD of Bonnyville.”

She described it as “one of the biggest issues you will see with these bylaws.”

CAO Kevin Nagoya noted when visiting a city, you never see a sign listing the bylaws within the community.

He feels that within the next year, the Province of Alberta and the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission will be reviewing how to inform the public on usage in each area.

But for now, the decision has been left up to municipalities.

Mayor Craig Copeland suggested council keep their regulations as tight as possible for the time being.

“We should just take baby steps.”

Lay agreed, “Have tighter regulations at the start. You can relax them later on, but it’s hard to increase them. The preferred course for me, is to have good solid regulations at the start.”