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Consumption of Liquor and Cannabis in Public Spaces

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Resolution Category: 
Extraordinary 2
Subject: 
Year: 
2018
Status: 
Adopted - Active
Sponsor(s): 
St. Albert, City of
Active Clauses: 

IT IS THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) request that the Alberta Government amend the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act to ensure the consumption of cannabis is provincially regulated the same as liquor is currently regulated in public spaces across Alberta.

Whereas Clauses: 

WHEREAS the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act (the “Act”) and its associated regulation establish rules for the use and consumption of liquor and the use, smoking and vaping of cannabis in public spaces;

WHEREAS the Act provides much more stringent restrictions on liquor consumption in public spaces than cannabis despite the intoxicating effects of both substances;

WHEREAS in preparing for federal legalization of cannabis possession, many municipalities across Alberta have received public feedback in opposition to widespread consumption of cannabis in public spaces; and

WHEREAS Alberta’s municipalities have had a limited timeframe to interpret Federal and Provincial legislation, consult their residents regarding public consumption, draft appropriate bylaws for cannabis consumption, and consider broader regional and provincial impacts.

Resolution Background: 
Federal legislation will legalize cannabis possession effective October 17, 2018 in Canada. In preparing for this date, the Alberta Government updated the Gaming and Liquor Act to become the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act in November 2017.
 
The Act prohibits the smoking and vaping of cannabis in any place where tobacco is restricted per the Alberta Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act, in addition to certain types of property, including hospitals, sports fields, playground, and more. Through bylaw, Alberta municipalities may create additional restrictions on public consumption, which the City of St. Albert and other municipalities across Alberta have undertaken in advance of October 17th.
Section 89 of the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act provides detailed regulations regarding the consumption of liquor in public places:
 
89 (1) Except as provided in this Act, no person may use or consume liquor in a public place or any place other than a residence, temporary residence, licensed premises or a place or class of place prescribed in the regulations where liquor may be used or consumed.

Section 89 also allows some permissions for liquor consumption in public parks or picnic areas, if designated by the owner as permissible, and if the liquor is consumed with food. Many other Canadian Provinces and Territories have implemented legislation that treats the public consumption of cannabis very similar to Alberta’s approach to liquor consumption, per the above, including: Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nunavut, and the Yukon.

 
Given the looming legalization date, the pace at which cannabis legalization across Canada has been implemented, and that many Alberta municipalities received public feedback on cannabis legalization after the May 31st, 2018 Resolution deadline to inform municipal bylaw amendments, the City of St. Albert believes this topic meets the AUMA’s criteria for an extraordinary resolution.
 
Multiple public engagement surveys conducted by Alberta municipalities indicated a significant degree of opposition to the public consumption of cannabis, and also indicated that Albertans preferred an approach similar to alcohol than smoking, when asked.
 
While the City of St. Albert appreciates the Province of Alberta enabling local decision-making regarding the public consumption of cannabis, the City is concerned that consumption is being approached by the Province too much like smoking, and not enough like the regulation of alcohol, given the intoxicating effects of both substances. Moreover, the pace of this process has not allowed for effective inter-municipal approaches to consumption, which may create unintended consequences at the regional or provincial level. Therefore, provincial action is required in this respect.
 
As an example, within the Edmonton Metropolitan Region alone, there are significant discrepancies amongst municipal neighbours regarding cannabis consumption regulations. While St. Albert has instituted a complete public consumption ban, Stony Plain and Leduc have specified a ban on smoking/vaping of cannabis in public places; Fort Saskatchewan will allow smoking/vaping in areas as designated by signage; Edmonton may allow within 30 meters of playgrounds, spray parks, sports fields; Strathcona County intends to ban the smoking/vaping of cannabis in places that include patios, theatres, events/markets, hotel rooms and swimming pools/spray parks. While many of these Bylaws have not received 3rd Reading at the time of this Resolution, this showcases a microcosm of differing approaches that will likely serve to confuse Albertans.
 
The City of St. Albert sees this request as consistent with previous AUMA advocacy efforts, whereby in their October 27, 2017 submission to the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, the AUMA supported the Province enacting a provincial-wide ban on public consumption, but to allow municipalities to permit consumption in certain designated areas, as well as in specially licensed bars or lounges, should they choose.
 
Specifically, the City of St. Albert proposes that the AUMA request that the Government of Alberta undertake appropriate legislative changes to the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act to ensure a consistent approach to cannabis and liquor consumption is implemented across the Province, with a ban on cannabis consumption in public places unless otherwise specified.
Government Response: 

No response has been received to date. With the recent change in government, AUMA has forwarded this resolution to the new Minister of Justice and Solicitor General for a response. 

AUMA Notes: 
AUMA’s October 2017 submission to the Provincial consultation on legalizing cannabis for recreational use indicated:
 
• AUMA believes that there should be more restrictions on public smoking or vaping of cannabis than we have on tobacco, given the negative health effects of second-hand smoke as well as the potential for intoxication.
• AUMA supports a provincial ban on consuming cannabis in public spaces with the exception of enabling municipalities to permit consumption in certain designated areas, as well as in specially licensed bars or lounges if they choose to do so.
 
However, according to the province’s “What we heard” report (https://www.alberta.ca/cannabis-what-we-heard.aspx), the majority of the Albertans surveyed thought that people should be allowed to use cannabis products in some public spaces outside of their homes. There was concern that given the number of young people who rent, more restrictions may result in many people consuming cannabis illegally. Therefore, the province decided to treat consumption of cannabis in the same manner as tobacco and enable municipalities to set additional consumption restrictions through bylaw. This background is included in the proposed AUMA comments on the resolution.