City bong shop rules upheld
Alberta's highest court says bylaw amendments were valid
Friday, Feb 28, 2014 04:16 pm
The Alberta Court of Appeal has upheld the validity of St. Albert’s bylaw amendments that were aimed at restricting the sale of items associated with drug consumption.
On Thursday, a judgment from three Court of Appeal justices was released and upheld the city’s amendments to its business license bylaw that restrict the sale of combinations of certain products.
Under the amendments, businesses that were not otherwise exempted could not sell a combination of three or more restricted products, a list which includes pipes, bongs and vaporizers, products displaying a marijuana plant, grinders, a type of digital weigh scale or products marketed for masking drug effects.
The city appealed a December 2012 decision by Justice T.D. Clackson that struck down those amendments after they were challenged in court by Ronald Smith, a consultant for The Chad Smoke Shop 420.
The local St. Albert store had been hit with a violation ticket and a business license suspension after the bylaw passed.
At the time, Clackson said the amendments were outside of the city’s jurisdiction because they were attempting to be criminal law, which is within the realm of the federal government.
The trio of appeal judges – Justice Jean Côté, Justice Barbara Lea Velduis and Justice Doreen Sulyma – disagreed, stating in the written decision that the bylaw provisions fall under both federal and provincial jurisdiction.
“In our view, the federal and provincial aspects of the Bylaw are of roughly equivalent importance,” the decision says.
“We are pleased that the court recognized that the city does have the jurisdiction to regulate these kind of matters,” said city solicitor Gene Klenke.
Klenke said the provincial jurisdiction is delegated to the city by the province.
“They found in our favour despite the overlap,” he said.
The city is still considering the implications of the decision before moving forward on enforcement, Klenke said.
“With the appeal process, the potential of appeal, we’re not sure about enforcement at this point,” he said, pointing out the plaintiffs could apply for leave to appeal at the Supreme Court level.
“That’s one of their options,” he said.
Smith’s counsel Aleksandra Simic did not respond to a request for comment by the Gazette’s deadline. Personnel at the local Chad Smoke Shop were unsure how to contact Smith directly. Calls to the company’s warehouse went unanswered.
Mayor Nolan Crouse said the pursuit of the appeal has been “non-political.”
“This was an administrative decision,” he said, adding all council did was pass the bylaw in 2012.