Paving the way for local cannabis legalization

Council passed first reading of public consumption of cannabis Monday

City council is certainly finding itself in rather uncharted territory with the rapidly approaching legalization of cannabis slated for October.

It’s a balancing act – no question – between considering the rights of those who will be able to utilize cannabis legally, and the concerns of those who want absolutely not a thing to do with it in any way shape or form.

To date, city council has dealt with most of the issues pertaining to legalization such as retailing. Currently, council is in the midst of figuring out how to manage the public use of cannabis – and it brings back memories of when the city was shaping a smoke-free bylaw that was somehow ultimately palatable to all.

That seems like forever ago now – and society had adjusted, even though at the time it seemed at times to be something that would be nearly impossible to reach consensus on.

These days, cannabis use in the public square has brought those same kinds of issues to the surface.

On Monday, council passed first reading of amendments to the smoke-free bylaw in connection to cannabis use, and councillors are determined to find the balance once again.

Lots of points surfaced during the course of discussion, such as Coun. Vesna Higham’s concern over cannabis smoking and vaping in multi-unit housing. Some folks clearly won’t be thrilled should the smell of pot come wafting through the ventilation system. What about those in basement suites? What if the couple upstairs lights up but the lady downstairs loathes even a trace of a whiff? Whose rights win at the end of the day?

Higham also pointed out that smoking and vaping cannabis in public for medical purposes should be up for discussion. Of course, that doesn’t exclude utilizing oils and edible kinds of cannabis products. But smoking and vaping are clearly a different matter.

Ultimately, no one really knows for sure how this will play out. Not that cannabis legalization is without precedent of course, but boiling it down to what it will look like on a local level is another story. It’s a complicated issue, and we can only hope council maintains a measured but strident view – and pace – when ironing out the final details. Come October and official legalization, our community will require something of a firm roadmap to guide citizens through what otherwise could be an overly complex and hard-to-navigate fundamental societal shift.

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