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Proceed with caution

Reefer Madness, an American anti-marijuana propaganda film, was made in 1936. Back then it was used as a tool to scare youth about cannabis addiction – it was fear-mongering at its corny best.

Reefer Madness, an American anti-marijuana propaganda film, was made in 1936. Back then it was used as a tool to scare youth about cannabis addiction – it was fear-mongering at its corny best.

But this isn’t the kind of tactic we want to take with our children and teenagers as Oct. 17 approaches, the day when consumption of pot becomes legal in Canada.

We don’t want to frighten our children. On the other hand, we don’t want to be flippant about the use of cannabis, either.

We need to be balanced in our approach, serious in our intent, and we must listen, learn, educate and base our decisions on rational thought.

Ken MacKay, a councillor with the City of St. Albert, and Alberta Health Services seems to have struck the right balance.

MacKay, who worked for the Edmonton Police Service for 33 years, recently put forward a motion that would ban public consumption of cannabis in public areas of St. Albert.

The proposed bylaw as it stands now would allow for public consumption in limited areas.

MacKay is greatly concerned about second- and third-hand smoke, and believes marijuana should be regulated the same way as alcohol.

Council is set to deal with the consumption bylaw on Aug. 20.

In a letter sent to St. Albert city council on June 25, AHS detailed some very sober-minded reasons why it is against public consumption, calling it “a step backwards for public health.”

AHS says the simple act of smoking or vaping creates opportunities to renormalize tobacco use and normalize cannabis use, which goes against the decades-old practice of trying to eliminate smoking altogether, especially when children are present.

Children and youth, AHS points out, are swayed by what they see on a regular basis and are vulnerable to smoking habits when they exist as normalized behaviour.

Furthermore, in the future if all parks and sidewalks are ever considered as places where public consumption is allowed, families’ exposure would increase exponentially.

It’s obvious: Smoking pot, other than for medicinal reasons, isn’t good for your health.

And what happens if cannabis users in public places don’t dispose of their used joints properly? A child might pick one up and ingest it. What if a dog does the same thing? Problems all-around.

Perhaps, St. Albert could follow the lead of Vancouver where the city has been handing out wearable, green plastic ashtrays to smokers for the past year. The ashtray distribution program is part of a more encompassing anti-litter campaign. Cigarette butts, counted individually, top Vancouver’s litter ledger.

Across the country public consumption has been banned in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, P.E.I. and the Yukon.

Locally, in this region, Leduc, Fort Saskatchewan and Spruce Grove have followed the same path.

Legalizing cannabis will create a high degree of uncertainty. St. Albert definitely needs certainty on this issue, and banning public consumption is one step in the right direction.

We don’t need any reefer madness.