City council examines proposed pot policy
City council is considering changes to the smoking bylaw that will incorporate all forms of smoking cannabis. In the process they are also looking at adding locations like walking trails to the list of places where smoking is banned. Supplied/City of Camrose.
Proposed changes to the City of Camrose Smoking Bylaw would see fewer places for smokers to take their afternoon drag.
The City is currently looking into updating their smoking bylaw to include smoking and vaping cannabis. The changes would add city walking trails, public parks, and hotels.
They are following many recommendations made by Les Hagen and Action on Smoking and Health. He originally made a presentation to council in December of 2017 regarding the federal legislation to legalize cannabis. He was back at the committee of the Whole meeting on April 16 as the proposed bylaw was presented.
"Camrose is taking a comprehensive public health approach to cannabis legalization and one of the key elements of the bylaw that is proposed is to prevent the renormalization of public smoking," he said.
Hagen's concern is the modelling of cannabis smoking or vaping will impact the younger population, he is not as concerned about the health affects from the cannabis as he is the tobacco. His argument is a five-year-old does not discern from tobacco or cannabis or vaping or a hookah or shisha. It's all smoking and if they grow up thinking any of them is acceptable they odds of them smoking cigarettes goes up.
"If the goal here is to keep driving down smoking rates, particularly among young people then we need to model that behaviour around kids," he said. "Modelling is an essential component of childhood development. If we are modelling healthy behaviour then we are more likely to get healthy kids."
These adjustments also fall in line with the recommendation of the province for municipalities to treat tobacco and marijuana in the same vein.
City of Camrose deputy manager Kim Isaak said similar rules from municipality to municipality regarding public use will make enforcement of those policies much easier.
"It's going to be difficult for people who come to our community and go 'This is Camrose, what do they allow here, what don't they allow?'" she said.
Isaak added that the proposed changes would actually make smoking much more prohibitive. With a 10-metre halo already around all parks and playgrounds, if the walking trails and other changes are added in, those spots open to smoking shrink pretty quick. Currently there already is no smoking in public buildings an facilities, sports fields, schools, and restaurants and bars, and those needing a cigarette must go at least five metres from a door into one of those buildings.
"I think they are really going to be forced to do it on their own property as opposed to on any type of public property because there is going to be so many prohibitions in place," said Isaak.
The city has contacted local hotels and most already are completely smoke free, however they are waiting to hear back from all care facilities.
One potential issue is the Recreation Centre. Currently there is a five-metre rule in place, but the building is technically inside Rudy Swanson Park, a zoned sports field. Isaak said they will be discussing the issue with those impacted, including City employees who smoke and work 10-12-hour shifts at the building.
"We are going to be looking to see if there is a way to accommodate this," she said. "It is difficult though to establish a designated smoking area the way our bylaw reads, it could also allow them to smoke cannabis and I don’t think this is something the public would be happy."
The proposed changes has the City taking a stance on medical marijuana where it would also fall under the smoking ban. Those with a prescription would still be allowed to smoke on their private property while an exception has been made for public housing.
This would differ from Calgary where medical marijuana would be exempt from the smoking bylaws.
"In my view will undermine the very restrictions they are bringing in," said Hagen. "I predict many people will get a note from a physician so that they can use cannabis in public places."
Cannabis smoking would be permitted in backyards, as would smoking cigarettes. Hagen said there is no risk from secondhand smoke from marijuana in the outdoors. At most it is a nuisance like smoke from a fire pit.
One issue the City uncovered in looking at this bylaw is that there currently is very poor signage for where people are able to smoke and not smoke and this is something that should be addressed. The city plans to focus on community engagement to educate people about the proposed changes and to get their feedback. Much of this will likely start in mid-June to combine with public consultation of proposed Land Use Bylaws and Business License Bylaws that will likely deal with the retail end of legalization.
The first reading of the proposed changes for the smoking bylaw will likely take place at the second council meeting in May.
"Council will not adopt this without doing a fairly extensive public hearing," said Isaak. "We also want to get the bylaw in place to wat we think is the norm to what other municipalities are doing."