Edmonton opts to avoid aggressive restrictive cannabis prohibition

Click to play video: 'Where will you be able to smoke marijuana in Edmonton?' Where will you be able to smoke marijuana in Edmonton?
WATCH ABOVE: As city staff look at Edmonton bylaws and where people will be allowed to consume cannabis, it has some asking if current rules around alcohol consumption are too restrictive. Vinesh Pratap reports – Jun 8, 2018

Smoke ’em if you got ’em, when it comes to consuming cannabis in public. There are restrictions proposed by the city, but not draconian ones.

Members of Edmonton city council’s community services committee adopted a 10-metre buffer zone from entrance ways to buildings, so many areas of sidewalks will be off limits to smoking cannabis, although there won’t be a blanket ban.

In parks that are catered to kids, the suggested buffer zone will be 30 metres. There are roughly 900 parks in Edmonton, and 600 of them have playground equipment, so that’s why councillors adopted to set a minimum distance as a health consideration for children.

More restrictive bans were also on the table, and rejected by the committee.

“I think if you make it overly restrictive then you are just encouraging people to break the law and I think that’s what we’re trying to get away from,” Councillor Ben Henderson said.

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READ MORE: Edmonton report outlines no-go zones for recreational marijuana use

“That’s a risk, if we’re too restrictive from the get-go,” said Ryan Pleckaitis, from the city’s community standards and neighbourhoods department.

“These are experiences that Denver has had, that Seattle has had, where they’ve imposed public consumption ban and if they could turn back the hands of time they’ve acknowledged that we would have allowed some space for consumption.”

The proposed bylaw will allow smoking on sidewalks. The catch is, the 10-metre part in the bylaw will ban smoking outside of bars, pubs, restaurants, or other buildings along busy commercial districts like Whyte Avenue or downtown.

“The majority, the vast majority of businesses… would be offside from a 10-metre setback distance,” said David Aitken, the manager for the city’s community standards branch.

Les Hagen, from Action on Smoking and Health, said his organization is fine with smoking on sidewalks, because he expects people will be practical.

“I think what we’ll see is what we already see, where people just go behind the building.”

READ MORE: Prospective pot retailer concerned with aspects of proposal to use lottery to decide who gets Edmonton shop licenses

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ASH’s larger concern was to keep smoking away from where children could be around, so they don’t mimic and pick up the habit. He argued for a 50-metre buffer zone at playgrounds and sports fields.

The goal of the bylaw, Henderson said, is to protect others instead of trying to protect someone from themselves.

“What one citizen does not negatively affect their neighbour.”

Council will vote on the proposed bylaw in July in an effort to stay ahead of the federal relaxation of the laws. It’s expected, based on questions raised by Councillor Andrew Knack, that Edmonton’s smoking bylaw will be amended to match what is finally decided on cannabis.

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