Council passes second and third reading of smoking bylaw pertaining to public cannabis use

The updated bylaw prohibits smoking or any form of consumption of cannabis in any public location

City council passed second and third readings of a smoke-free bylaw in relation to the public consumption of cannabis Tuesday evening.

Consuming cannabis in public, which includes smoking and vaping cannabis, is prohibited after council approved the updated bylaw.

The City’s bylaw is in addition to the Alberta Act to Control and Regulate Cannabis that limits smoking and vaping in locations such as playgrounds, sports fields, hospitals and schools – to name a few, according to a release.

A proposed amendment regarding cannabis smoking in multi-residential apartments and residential housing of four or more units was ultimately defeated due largely to concerns over enforceability.

“Ultimately, medical marijuana users must (also) follow the same rules when smoking or vaping as apply to tobacco,” said Erin Stuart, inspections and licensing manager for the City.

Last month, council gave first reading to amendments to the smoke-free bylaw, and opted to wait for more information about the prohibition of smoking or vaping of medical cannabis in public places as well as that of indoor cannabis smoking being prohibited for multi-unit housing throughout the City.

With Tuesday’s approval of the bylaw, Red Deer is one of seven municipalities to move forward with bylaw updates that prohibit public consumption in some way.

During the course of discussion, some councillors were also frustrated with the lack of assistance and direction from the federal government as legalization approaches. That included the issue of enforcement.

The updated bylaw includes fines of $200 for a first offence, $500 for a second offence and a fine that is not less than $500 and not more than $2,500 for a third or subsequent offence.

“The powers of the federal, provincial and local governments are not equal,” said Mayor Tara Veer. “We do not all have equal, unilateral powers.

“I agree with my councillor colleagues that the fact that the left hand and the right hand of the provincial and the federal governments are not in alignment essentially causes significant areas of issue and challenge for municipalities in trying to deal with their application of what is their rightful authority to attend to,” she said.

The Federal Cannabis Act comes into force Oct. 17th.

“We really are challenged from a public policy perspective (in dealing) with cannabis,” she added, referring to the balance of ensuring people’s rights are protected while also providing appropriate restrictions for those who don’t want to be near the substance.

“What this bylaw essentially does is that the recreational use of cannabis – the smoking of cannabis – will need to be in private, not in public,” she said. “We really are challenged particularly on the medical front as well, because again you have the competition of rights,” she added.

“We have the rights of those who use it for medical purposes competing with those who have the right to not be exposed for any health purposes,” she said, prior to the passing of second reading which passed unanimously. “I think we’ve done the best that we can with the circumstances that we have,” she said.

Meanwhile, third reading passed unanimously as well.

A public survey held earlier this year focused on three areas – where recreational cannabis stores should (or should not be located in Red Deer) which was addressed through land use bylaw amendments; where it should be okay (or not okay) to use recreational cannabis and where home growing should take place.

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