Edmonton city council weighing options on making public marijuana rules tougher

A woman smokes a joint during the annual 4/20 marijuana celebration on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, April 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

New rules that will govern public consumption of marijuana could be made even more tougher next week if one city councillor has his way.

Councillor Michael Walters is hoping the city administration will change its mind on limited access in some Edmonton parks.

The proposed public places bylaw amendments include a minimum distance of 30 metres to separate cannabis use and where kids are likely to be nearby, however Walters doesn’t think that’s enough. He said he’ll try to make the public places bylaw tougher next week when city council votes on it.

READ MORE: Edmonton opts to avoid aggressive restrictive cannabis prohibition

“I have always thought that we shouldn’t allow cannabis smoking or tobacco smoking in parks where there are playgrounds or sports fields.”

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He’s mulling over the idea of increasing the minimum distance to 100 metres.

“Nobody carries a tape measure,” was repeated by several presenters to the committee, which included both anti-smoking advocates and public health officials.

“If administration is able to give us a distinction between, wellness oriented parks, and sports oriented parks, or children’s activity parks versus the larger premium parks like Hawrelak, maybe we can have two sets of rules,” Walters said.

READ MORE: West Kelowna puppy became seriously ill after eating marijuana in park: couple

One park that falls into a grey area is Ezio Faraone Park, just north of the High Level Bridge.

“That’s a small park so, that’s the challenge,” Walters said. Other presenters pointed out children are there doing healthy activities even though it doesn’t fall into the category other parks do.

A team of advisers from Alberta Health Services (AHS) urged the city to bring in the most restrictive marijuana in public rules as possible. Dr. Shobhit Maruti said it makes the most sense to have tough rules from the outset, and then ease up on them if the situation warrants.

“The act of smoking or vaping has the potential to re-normalize tobacco use, and normalize cannabis use as it becomes nearly impossible to determine which substance has been used,” Maruti said.

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READ MORE: City council committee discusses how late to allow cannabis stores to stay open in Edmonton

Kathie Gavin from the AHS provincial cannabis project team told the committee Edmonton should follow locations like the City of Hague in the Netherlands where they’ve rolled back what were once acceptable areas of the cit to smoke marijuana in, and have now put in new bans.

“The reason given by city officials was because of many complaints by citizens and visitors about the smell, and the noise of the users.”

The committee, because of time limitation for the debate, sent the proposed bylaw to next week’s full council meeting without a recommendation.

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