Client Update: Canada’s infant cannabis industry starting to require a patchwork quilt of governance: updates from Calgary, Edmonton & Nova Scotia

Kevin Landry

Edmonton wants “Cannabis Lounges”, Nova Scotia Landlords don’t want tenants to smoke marijuana in their rental homes, and Calgary City Council contemplates a private recreational cannabis system. The old adage of “Location. Location. Location.” is proving to be an important legal consideration; both with respect to where cannabis will be sold and where it can be consumed once legal.

Until now, much of the discussion on location has been focused on producers, which we discussed in the context of New Brunswick in our articles: The Grass is Always Greener in the Other Jurisdiction- Provincial Acts and Regulations Under the Cannabis Act and Weeding through New Brunswick’s Latest Cannabis Recommendations.

Edmonton wants to allow “Cannabis Lounges”; Vancouver doesn’t explicitly allow them, but has had cafés operating for decades

Proposed amendments to Edmonton’s Zoning By-law were heard by City Council on June 28, 2017. The amendment will permit “Cannabis Lounges” (public spaces to consume cannabis) as a commercial use for property. The amendment defines a “Cannabis Lounge” as follows:

Development where the primary purpose of the facility is the sale of Cannabis to the public, for the consumption within the premises that is authorized by provincial or federal legislation. This Use does not include Cannabis Production and Distribution. 

Vancouver’s by-laws indicate that current activities in the city are more so tolerated than legislated. Vancouver’s Zoning and Development by-laws currently only permit retail medical marijuana dealers and compassion clubs (which are non-profit and offer other health services on site). Nothing is legislated for recreational cannabis lounges in Vancouver despite inhabitants like the New Amsterdam Café, which has operated since the early 2000s.

Calgary’s City Council considered its Intergovernmental Affairs Committee’s recommended response to Alberta’s request for provincial engagement on June 24, 2017. The Committee’s report, which is found here, suggests Calgary engage its citizens, and urges the Alberta government to provide a regulatory framework in a timely fashion. The report suggests that Calgary would look to analogous businesses as a guide: “if the Province were to allow for public cannabis lounges, there are parallels that can be drawn to existing liquor-serving establishments”.

Nova Scotia landlords are concerned

In Nova Scotia, the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia (“IPOANS”) has issued a media release stating its opposition to the Cannabis Act‘s provisions permitting the personal growth of four plants per person, at least in leased units.

IPOANS cites concerns of tenants inhaling secondhand marijuana smoke and airborne toxins from marijuana plant cultivation as a main reason for their stance.

IPOANS’ press release raises an important legal question: can landlords prevent tenants from growing cannabis? Arguably so, given that section 9A(3)(a)(ii) of the Residential Tenancies Act (Nova Scotia) contemplates the imposition of reasonable rules:

Landlord’s rules

9A (3) A rule is reasonable if

(a) it is intended to

(i) promote a fair distribution of services and facilities to the occupants of the residential premises,

(ii) promote the safety, comfort or welfare of persons working or residing in the residential premises, or

(iii) protect the landlord’s property from abuse;

(b) it is reasonably related to the purpose for which it is intended;

(c) it applies to all tenants in a fair manner; and

(d) it is clearly expressed so as to inform the tenant of what the tenant must or must not do to comply with the rule. 

Calgary supportive of private recreational cannabis system

In a move that is somewhat expected given the privatized liquor industry in Alberta, it was suggested on June 24, 2017 that Calgary City Council support a private recreational cannabis industry.

Calgary City Council’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee recommended in their response to Alberta’s request for Provincial Engagement that the Council:

Support a privatized framework for legal retail cannabis sales similar to the existing retail alcohol store model, contingent upon the sharing of tax revenues to compensate for the increased costs to the city. 

Among the reasons cited for the decision is that the City could exercise oversight while allowing “flexibility in regulating and administering retail locations in a way that considers local context.”

However, just because Calgary is in support of a private system doesn’t mean Alberta will have one. As the Province of Alberta’s website correctly lays out, the Province alone is responsible for the “retail model”, but both the Province and the Municipal government are jointly responsible for “retail location and rules”.

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