The city has launched a public survey asking Edmontonians to weigh in on where they think people should and should not be allowed to smoke in public once marijuana is legalized later this year.
The proposed changes would create one set of rules for where people can consume tobacco and cannabis come Oct. 17, when recreational marijuana use will be legal across Canada.
After backtracking on a controversial new smoking policy earlier this month, the City of Edmonton is asking for additional input from the public on the topic.
“There was a desire to, among some councillors, align tobacco consumption regulations with the proposed cannabis consumption regulations,” explained Ryan Pleckaitis, the director for complaints and investigations with the city.
“Once that bylaw passed, the mayor’s office and several councillors received some feedback, especially from businesses in high commercial areas, with some concerns over what the impacts of those changes might be. So council had asked us to do some more engagement… just to get a better understanding of impacts and to avoid any unintended consequences with those changes.”
On July 10, councillors passed a motion making cannabis and cigarette restrictions exactly the same. The move was made because enforcement officials previously said it will be difficult to differentiate between the two at first glance.
However, some councillors were worried the more extensive restrictions would be too limiting for people who smoke tobacco and make it illegal to smoke in places they’re currently allowed to smoke.
Council initially decided to ban tobacco and cannabis smoking:
- Within 10 metres of any bus stop
- By any entrance/exit, window, air intake system
- On a patio
- In a park that has children’s amenities like playgrounds, outdoor pools, sports fields or off-leash areas
- Churchill Square
- The Edmonton Valley Zoo, Muttart Conservatory, John Janzen Nature Centre
- Any city-owned golf course
The rules meant people would be able to smoke on sidewalks but only if they were 10 metres away from any entrance, exit, window or patio. Additionally, people would only be allowed to smoke in parks that don’t have children’s amenities.
One day later, a motion was passed that gives council the opportunity to amend the smoking bylaw.
“It is what it is,” Pleckaitis said. “We presented a model and it went through a number of amendments. When that happens, sometimes we rush to make decisions and might not understand all the impacts. This is a good opportunity for us to consult with businesses and the public and just make sure that we understand what the implications of making this change will be.”
He said two surveys are being done: one to get residents’ feedback and one to get input from local businesses.
(Graphic credit: City of Edmonton)
“In this public survey, there is a map of Whyte Avenue just as an example, just to show the impacts of making that change,” Pleckaitis said. “You can see that there is still space along that entertainment district where people can smoke.
“The challenge in places like Whyte Avenue, for example, is that there’s not a lot of room once you create a 10-metre buffer space from doorways and windows and patios,” he added.
“So the question is: where do smokers smoke? That’s something we want to get more feedback on.
“If this bylaw does pass, there’s opportunities for us to work with businesses to designate smoking areas, to use signage, to move our ashtrays that are public in locations where smoking would be permitted.”
The survey is available online and will be open to the public for just one week until Aug. 1.
“Unfortunately, we’re under the gun, so to speak,” Pleckaitis said. “We have to report back to committee at council on Sept. 12 so that’s the reason we have the accelerated timelines and just the week available for the public to comment.”
The results of the survey will be presented to city council on Sept. 12.
Watch: Dr. Antoine Kanamugire says he has concerns about the potential impact of the legalization of marijuana in Canada and the potential impact on young people.