Camrosians favour addition of cannabis to smoking bylaw
"I think regardless of which way the bylaw goes, whether it is a smoking bylaw or a more alcohol related bylaw, I think we put Camrose Police Service in a very tough spot for enforcement. It's virtually going to be impossible to enforce.” — PJ Stasko, Councillor
Camrose City Council appears set to move forward with voting in its cannabis smoking regulations.
A report stemming from their public consultations was brought to the committee of a whole meeting on July 16 that showed the vast majority of public respondents agreed with dealing with cannabis smoking under a new beefed up smoking bylaw.
Under the new bylaw, smoking cannabis in public would be handled in much the same was as smoking tobacco, except the new policy would add city walking trails, public parks and hotels to the non-smoking areas in the city. The city is looking at adding a 10-metre buffer around all parks and playgrounds, adding to the ban in in public buildings and facilities, sports fields, schools, and restaurants and bars — those needing a cigarette must go at least five metres from a door into one of those buildings.
The proposed bylaw received first reading on May 22 and went out to the public for further consultation.
The City collected 460 responses to their online survey and 337 people said they were satisfied with the way cannabis has been addressed in the drafted bylaw while 53 preferred complete public ban and 21 wanted cannabis treated the same as alcohol.
On the question of a total ban of smoking cannabis in public as an alternative to a 10-metre buffer, 229 were for it while 263 were against a public ban.
"We have to recognize the federal government have made a decision regarding the use of cannabis, so even though we might not prefer that to happen, it has happened," said Coun. Max Lindstrand. "It would be prudent for us to recognize that we must provide some outlet for this to happen, otherwise there will be that much more illegal activity within the city.
"I think what we have done is a good compromise and we've tightened up our smoking bylaw with it, which is good. From my perspective, reduction in the use of tobacco or cannabis … would be a positive for our community."
Coun. Kevin Hycha did question why cannabis was being tacked onto the smoking bylaw as opposed to being treated like alcohol as the City of Calgary has elected to do. Calgary has banned the consumption of cannabis in any form in public places, except for designated cannabis consumption areas.
Deputy city manager Kim Isaak said they were following the lead of the province, she also reiterated that the Camrose Police Service had indicated it is easier for their officers and bylaw officers to enforce it as part of the smoking bylaw.
Coun. PJ Stasko said the Camrose Police Association will draft a letter with their recommendation for the bylaw.
"I think regardless of which way the bylaw goes, whether it is a smoking bylaw or a more alcohol related bylaw, I think we put Camrose Police Service in a very tough spot for enforcement," said Stasko. "It's virtually going to be impossible to enforce.” I think we have to contemplate that when we pass the bylaw. Do we pass the bylaw to pass the bylaw or is it actually going to be something we can enforce down the road?'
This train of thought led Edmonton to look at a more lax approach to cannabis smoking as smoking cannabis will still be allowed on sidewalks (as long as you’re 10 metres away from any bus stop, entrance/exit, window, air intake system or patio), parks without children's amenities, walking trails, grass utility lines, designated consumption areas at festivals, private property and outside hospitals (away from doors).
and it is having an unanticipated tourism effect.
"In the States it's already being promoted as a place, when it becomes legal, as a destination for holidaying for people who smoke," said Coun. Cathy Johnson. "It was put into place because the police service said 'We do not have the man power to [enforce] a stringent bylaw.'"
Council will still have the option of increasing the buffer area and make other adjustments in the future.
"It's going to be an interesting change, I'm thinking there's going to be some changes or tweaks to the whole bylaw as we move a long, so I think this is a great place to start," said Hycha.
The bylaw will be brought back to council at a future meeting.