The City of Calgary is prepared for cannabis legalization

CALGARY– With the legalization of cannabis fast approaching, preparations are now complete from a City perspective. With public safety and health top of mind for most Calgarians, City officials met today at the Calgary Power Reception Hall to answer questions around impaired driving, public consumption and retail operations. Matt Zabloski, lead for The City’s legalization project, Constable Dan Kurz from Calgary Police Service and Brian Whitelaw, Coordinator for Public Safety and Enforcement at Calgary Transit were among the speakers.

“We have been working for the past two years to prepare for legalization including taking into account the views of Calgarians,” says Matt Zabloski, cannabis legalization project lead.“We have established a retail framework reflective of Calgarians’ views and which provides viable opportunities for this newly legalized industry. We have also taken steps to ensure that our consumption bylaws are reflective of what we learned through our engagement and research. Our focus continues to be in ensuring that Calgary remains a great place to make a living and a great place to make a life.”

Background on Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act
On June 21, 2018 the federal Cannabis Act (Bill C-45) received royal assent, meaning it received approval from both the House and Senate to become law; making the consumption and sale of non-medical cannabis legal in Canada on Oct. 17, 2018. It ended 90 years of prohibition and was a historic vote as Canada is the first major economy to legalize recreation marijuana use.

Municipal regulations
Here is an overview of The City of Calgary’s municipal regulations around cannabis, as well as federal and provincial laws that will be enforced:

Impaired driving

  • Driving while impaired by cannabis is illegal and can lead to criminal charges and prison time.
  • Research from the Canadian Centre of Substance Use and Addiction shows that, on average, cannabis use doubles the risk of being involved in a collision.
  • Alcohol and drugs, including cannabis, affect everyone differently, and many factors can increase the effects on an individual. There is no safe amount of cannabis to consume before driving.
  • The Calgary Police Service will enforce federal and provincial laws around impaired driving using Standardized Field Sobriety Testing and the Drug Recognition Expert program.
  • For details about driving while impaired by cannabis – including how impaired drivers are detected and penalties as per blood concentration levels – visit and search for ‘impaired driving’.

Public consumption

  • Under the Cannabis Consumption Bylaw, consumption of recreational cannabis is prohibited in any form in Calgary’s public places. This includes smoking, vaping and edibles.
  • An exemption to the bylaw exists for medical cannabis, which may be smoked or vaped in public places that are allowed under both municipal and provincial rules. Consumption methods other than smoking or vaping of medically prescribed cannabis is allowed in all public settings. This includes edibles, caplets, tinctures or sprays, or the application of oils or creams.
  • Recreational cannabis consumption is prohibited on Calgary Transit properties and vehicles. Medical cannabis cannot be smoked or vaped on Transit vehicles or property, however it can be otherwise consumed (edibles, caplets, sprays, etc.).
  • The Cannabis Consumption Bylaw is enforceable by the Calgary Police Service, City of Calgary community peace officers and Calgary Transit peace officers. Violating the bylaw can mean a $100 ticket.
  • At this time, there are no designated cannabis consumption areas throughout the city. Council can begin the process of identifying and confirming them. The process allows for public engagement in each community in which designated cannabis consumption areas might be located, and designation would occur through a Public Hearing of Council.
  • Currently, there are no licensed premises such as smoking lounges or cannabis cafes in which cannabis can be consumed. This may change in the future as it is addressed by the federal and provincial governments.
  • Festivals and events in Calgary may apply to have designated cannabis consumption areas.

Cannabis retail stores

The City of Calgary has enabled prospective cannabis businesses to complete all the required municipal approvals needed for a cannabis store prior to legalization with an unprecedented customer service-focused effort.

  • The City developed new information tools (the integrated web portal, exhaustive Q&A’s, a live webinar, the cannabis store map etc.) to help inform and prepare business owners applying for a cannabis store.
  • The City launched a new intake tool that allowed businesses to apply for a development permit, building permit and business licence at the same time – all the municipal approvals that cannabis store applicants needed to receive prior to opening.

Each cannabis store application has a different customer journey. Therefore, there are many reasons why each site and application is at a different stage in the process.

Early in the legalization process, Council directed Administration to utilize an approval process that includes the opportunity for appeal, as a result we have seen many communities and citizens become very involved in that appeal process. This means that some applications are being further reviewed by the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board.

The City of Calgary will continue to work with applicants that are nearing an approval for a cannabis store to open in the next few weeks. The City of Calgary is proud of the work that has gone into informing applicants and helping them navigate the cannabis store approval process.

For more information about cannabis legalization, please visit