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Keep Off the Grass! Cannabis in Calgary: Zoning and Public Use

Anticipation of cannabis legalization is all the buzz right now as federal, provincial and municipal legislation is coming together to paint a practical picture of cannabis regulation – all by October 17, 2018. This blog post examines aspects of municipal law regulating the purchase, sale, and use of cannabis in the City of Calgary. There are three main sources of regulations for cannabis business in Calgary:

Public and Private Use

On October 17, 2018, the federal Cannabis Act (Bill C-45) will come into force to de-criminalize and allow legal possession of up to 30 grams of certain types of cannabis. However, Calgarians will be only be permitted to smoke, vape, and consume cannabis in some public spaces and on private property.

The Cannabis Consumption Bylaw makes it illegal to consume, smoke or vape cannabis in public. The only exception, as outlined by the bylaw, are clearly marked designated cannabis consumption areas.

In addition, similar to beer gardens at festivals and events, organizers and event holders can apply for permits to create designated cannabis consumption areas subject to various restrictions found in sections 4.1 and 4.2 of the Cannabis Consumption Bylaw. For example, the cannabis designated areas must be open-air and fenced sites, as provincial rules forbid smoking or vaping in enclosed spaces such as tents. In addition, provincial law prohibits the sale of cannabis in any premises where alcohol is also sold, so you will not see beer gardens in the same spot as the designed cannabis area.

Medically prescribed cannabis will be exempt from the Cannabis Consumption Bylaw but is still subject to provincial regulations. Smoking of medical cannabis is governed by the same rules as smoking or vaping tobacco under the Smoking and Vaping Bylaw. Police and bylaw officers can request documentation from medical cannabis users at any time. If you have a medical prescription for cannabis, it would be prudent to carry your prescription with you at all times.

If you are a recreational cannabis user, and are using cannabis in a public place that is not a designated area, you may be subject to a fine. Bylaw and police officers have the discretion to issue a ticket as follows:

  • Smoking, vaping or consuming cannabis in a public place or where prohibited is subject to a fine of $50-100.
  • Permitting a person to smoke or vape where prohibited is subject to a fine of $50-200.

The City has taken the stance that it will regulate the use of cannabis on public property only and not use of cannabis on private property.

If you are a landlord of a rental property or condominium, you have the ability to include a restriction or prohibition of cannabis consumption clause in your rental agreement.

Business and Zoning

The Land Use Bylaw 1P2007 has been amended to include specific rules and regulations for three main types of cannabis businesses: cannabis counselling, cannabis facilities and cannabis stores.

Cannabis counselling is a business where non-medical professionals can provide advice on cannabis usage. Cannabis cannot be sold or consumed at these locations. There are multiple rules and permit requirements which can be found on the City of Calgary website. Counselling offices must be 300 metres away from other counselling offices and 150 metres from any school.

Cannabis facilities allow the growth, processing, producing, testing, storing and distribution of both recreational and medical cannabis. These facilities are allowed in any Industrial General (I-G) districts and must be 75 metres away from a residential district.

Cannabis stores which display or sell cannabis are governed strictly by municipal and provincial laws. Consumption of cannabis is not permitted in these stores. A cannabis store must be a stand-alone store and can allow for cannabis counselling to occur on-site. Site separation requirements limit the number of stores in each community. Stores must be 150 metres away from school and emergency shelters. The City has also mandated a 30 metre separation requirement between cannabis stores and liquor stores, pawn shops, payday loan shops and places of worship. In addition, stores must be 300 metres away from other counselling locations and cannabis stores.

The Cannabis Store Guidelines provide that the separation distance between cannabis stores may be relaxed in certain circumstances such as when there is only one other Cannabis Store within the minimum separation distance; a proposed Cannabis Store is located on a different street or on the opposite side of the same street as the existing Cannabis Store; a major road, expressway or river separates the proposed Cannabis Store from the existing Cannabis Store; or when the proposed Cannabis Store is located in an enclosed shopping centre.

The Land Use Bylaw grants the City the discretion to approve development permits for the 3 types of businesses mentioned above, which it has been reviewing since April of 2018. The City is required to consider the business type and the proposed district prior to approving a permit, and it must issue a notice regarding the application 7 days prior to approval, to give the public a chance to submit comments regarding such application.

Business Licence

A City of Calgary business license is required to operate a cannabis store. This type of business would require a Cannabis Store licence type. A Cannabis Store licence does not authorize the growing, producing, testing, destroying, storing, or distribution of cannabis. A separate licence is required from the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission to sell cannabis in Alberta.

A Cannabis Store licence cannot be issued to a residential dwelling unit or any premises located in a residential land use district as described in the Land Use Bylaw or a mobile business unit.

A municipal business licence will be issued when all required municipal approvals and fees have been obtained. The Province (AGLC) requires either a development permit approval or the municipal business licence approval before they issue their provincial licence.

All Cannabis Store municipal business licences include a police information check. This process is completed by the Calgary Police Service and is initiated on the applicant’s behalf through the initial business application.

Whether you are an individual with questions on public cannabis consumption or a business person interested in learning more about the different requirements to initiate a cannabis-related business, Field Law has a wide range of knowledge and expertise to help you navigate whatever questions you may have as we get closer to the legalization of cannabis.