Smoking cannabis in public may be banned entirely in St. Albert if a motion put forward by a St. Albert city councillor passes in August.
Coun. Ken MacKay has given notice of a motion that would ban the public consumption of cannabis in public areas of the city, although residents would still be able to smoke on their private property.
Although Edmonton has opted to allow for public consumption of cannabis, many surrounding communities – including Leduc, Fort Saskatchewan and Spruce Grove – have banned the public consumption of the drug. MacKay said that this motion would bring St. Albert in line with other communities in our region.
St. Albert city council was slated to tackle all four bylaws related to cannabis legalization on Monday night but as the meeting approached 10 p.m. council voted to postpone dealing with the consumption bylaw until its meeting Aug. 20.
MacKay said one of the many reasons that he put forward the motion is his concerns around the impact of secondhand smoke.
“It really follows along some of the recommendations we received from Alberta Health Services,” MacKay said, noting that they received a letter from AHS that detailed the dangers of cannabis smoke and asking council to prohibit the substance.
Right now it is too early to understand what the long term impacts and harms of inhaling the secondhand smoke will be, MacKay added.
Cannabis is an intoxicating substance and should be treated similarly to alcohol, MacKay said.
Along with citing health concerns, MacKay added the public prohibition would also make it less confusing for residents and easier to enforce.
Right now administration has put forward a recommendation that public smoking may happen on sidewalks, but as long as you are five metres away from most public spaces and doorways. MacKay said that residents walking down the street would need to decide if they put out their smoke before entering into these areas or not realize they have entered into the non-smoking areas altogether.
“I just think it’s a practical way to start off with and we can potentially remove regulations if we find that it's not that big of an issue,” MacKay said.
MacKay also believes that it is possible provincial and federal rules may loosen once edibles are legalized and may allow for lounges where people can consume cannabis.
With a total pubic ban MacKay said that he would support Coun. Natalie Joly’s motion to allow for an exception to the consumption bylaw for medical marijuana users.
Joly put forward the same motion in a governance, priorities and finance committee meeting but it failed with the majority of councillors voting against it. City solicitor Marta Caufield presented the draft of the consumption bylaw to the committee meeting and said that the city didn’t think it was necessary for a medical exemption and that the city believed it would make enforcement more difficult.
Joly said she is bringing the motion back in front of council but is not sure if it will pass.
“I think it’s important to because it’s important to protect medical users in St. Albert,” Joly said.
Right now there is a stigma associated with using cannabis, Joly said. She noted that there are many different medical conditions that can be treated with cannabis.
“I would just hate for patients to be fearful of taking their doctor's recommendations to use cannabis because we have placed a stigma on it,” Joly said.