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Edmonton, Canada Could Be World's First City to Allow Pot Smoking in Public

As the Great White North prepares to welcome adult-use cannabis, Edmonton may enact very liberal rules for reefer despite warnings from health experts.

by Zach Harris

Photo via iStock/ Wavebreakmedia

City officials in Edmonton, Canada will vote next week on whether to allow public cannabis consumption on city sidewalks and at local parks, an ordinance that could potentially make Alberta’s capital one of the most progressive cities for legal weed in the world.

According to concurrent reports from the Edmonton Journal and Global News, the Edmonton City Council’s public services division voted unanimously last month to adopt public cannabis rules in line with tobacco.

Per the details of the preliminary plan, adults 18 years and older would be able to spark up their legal pot on any public sidewalk or alley, as long as they are 10 meters (or 32 feet) away from storefronts and bus stops. Similarly, residents and tourists would be able to enjoy a joint at any public park or green space as long as it is 30 meters away from playgrounds, outdoor pools, skateparks, and other child-centric areas.

After passing through the council’s public services panel with flying colors, the groundbreaking city ordinance must still be confirmed by the Edmonton’s full City Council before it can be signed into law.

And before the council makes that final vote next week, a number of high-profile Canadian health experts are trying their best to push cannabis consumption to private residences and designated clubs.

“The current bylaw would be one of the least restrictive bylaws, not only in the province, but in the world,” Alberta Health Services medical officer Dr. Shobhit Maruti told the Journal, arguing that every other municipality with legal marijuana in Canada and around the world has already passed regulations banning public pot consumption.

“The act of smoking or vaping has the potential to re-normalize tobacco use, and normalize cannabis use as it becomes nearly impossible to determine which substance has been used,” Maruti added.

Ahead of the full vote scheduled for next Tuesday, at least one Edmonton City Councilor has suggested amending the ordinance with more strict regulations for parks, suggesting an expanded 100-meter buffer zone around sports fields and playgrounds. Like Maruti, Councillor Michael Walters derided the public use of both cannabis and tobacco.

“I have always thought that we shouldn’t allow cannabis smoking or tobacco smoking in parks where there are playgrounds or sports fields,” said Councillor Walters. “If administration is able to give us a distinction between wellness-oriented parks and sports-oriented parks, or children’s activity parks versus the larger premium parks like Hawrelak, maybe we can have two sets of rules.”

As of now, no city in North America or elsewhere welcomes open cannabis consumption in parks or on streets, with nearly all legal weed regulations restricting smoking to private property. In Denver, the nation’s first recreational pot lounge only allows users to consume edibles or vaporized cannabis.

Canada’s highly anticipated legal cannabis sales are currently scheduled to begin nationwide in October.


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Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.



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