Edmonton settles on 10-metre buffer zone for smoking, cannabis use around entrances

Edmonton settles on 10-metre buffer zone for smoking, cannabis use around entrances
WATCH ABOVE: Consuming cannabis will be banned within 10 metres of any entrance, exit, window, air intake or bus shelter in Edmonton. The rule changes will also encompass tobacco, which previously had a five-metre limit.

After extensive debate, Edmonton city councillors decided to ban cannabis consumption within 10 metres outside any entrance, exit, window, air intake or bus shelter. The rule changes will also encompass tobacco, which previously had a five-metre limit.

It passed third reading in a vote of 10-3.

On Oct. 17, recreational marijuana is set to become legal across Canada. Municipalities are still responsible for setting their own rules in terms of public consumption and enforcement.

“We have to have something in place by next month,” Mayor Don Iveson said during debate on Tuesday.

“We can amend this whenever… We can do all of those things in the future. The issue is we have to have something in place [the city] can enforce.”
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WATCH: Alberta municipalities’ rules about cannabis rules differ

A motion by Coun. Ben Henderson to amend the bylaw to reduce the buffer zone from 10 metres to five metres was voted down. In part, that suggestion was brought up because of concerns from businesses in high-traffic areas like Whyte Avenue and Jasper Avenue that the larger no-smoking zones would drive smokers out of those business areas entirely.

“I do have real concerns about the unintended consequences,” Iveson said, citing feedback from the hospitality industry, “about pushing people off the sidewalk to other places for people to consume.”

LISTEN BELOW: Councillors Michael Walters and Jon Dziadyk speak with 630 CHED

However, councillors were advised that experts — and other learnings — have suggested starting with a more restrictive bylaw and then easing it later, if required.

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Iveson also worried that making the rules too complicated or varied would make it harder for the public to understand, remember and comply with.

Coun. Michael Walters said he’s received a total of three emails over the last couple of months from people who want to see the smoking restrictions kept as it is or who would prefer “far greater restrictions than what’s being proposed right now.”

“Whenever we make a change, people react to that change,” Coun. Bev Esslinger said, “but soon we learn to adapt.”

READ MORE: Old Strathcona Business Association wants city to give bars and eateries time to ‘ease into’ any new smoking rules

In July, city councillors passed a bylaw amendment aligning the rules on where Edmontonians can smoke cigarettes with cannabis and vaping.

Included among the changes was a rule increasing the distance required between smokers and entrances to buildings, increasing it from five metres to 10 metres.

Council quickly rescinded the changes to allow for more consultation with the public.

READ MORE: Edmonton councillors put cannabis bylaw on hold for more public engagement

The city then released the results of a summer survey that gathered opinions from thousands of respondents.

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The results showed that, overall, 68 per cent of Edmontonians supported the new distance requirement between smokers and entrances.

But the numbers were lower when looking at responses from dozens of bars and restaurants.

Still, the survey results found the majority of about 80 local businesses asked supported extending the buffer zone around entrances and windows to 10 metres.

The executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association said she was disappointed with the final decision.

“It was challenging that it was very divisive,” Cherie Klassen said. “Even some of our businesses were on side with greater separation distances. It was largely our hospitality businesses that make up our very vibrant and large nightlife on Whyte Avenue that were concerned about the implications of increasing those separation distances.”

Klassen said the biggest concern with the 10-metre smoke-free zones was safety.

“Speaking with people who run restaurants and bars, they’re quite concerned about the smoking patrons – that 10 metres away they’re not going to be able to see them, they’re going to be out onto the street, they’re going to be pushed into back alleys where it’s dark, where it’s not well lit, where there aren’t ashtrays.

“They are customers at the end of the day and that’s what our businesses want to ensure: that they can still provide accessibility for all of their customers.”

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On Tuesday, councillors talked about revisiting the no-smoking/no-consuming rules and limits around entrances in the spring and adjusting as needed.

“I don’t think we’re going to get this right,” Coun. Scott McKeen said. “I don’t think it’s possible to get this right right off the bat.”

In Edmonton, smoking will not be permitted within 10 metres of:

· doorways, windows and air intakes of buildings
· patios
· bus stops

In addition, smoking will not be allowed in:

· any patio or building (buildings include those that are publicly or privately owned, to which members of the public have access, such as stores and restaurants)
· public vehicles (buses, taxis, LRT, and other vehicles that transport the public for a fee;
· parks containing playgrounds, sports fields, skate parks, bicycle parks, outdoor theatres, outdoor pools, outdoor spray parks, seasonal skating rinks or off-leash areas
· properties containing schools or childcare facilities
· city-owned golf courses
· cemeteries
· ski hills
· transit stations, bus terminals and LRT platforms;
· Sir Winston Churchill Square, Fort Edmonton Park, the John Janzen Nature Centre, the Edmonton Valley Zoo, the Muttart Conservatory and William Hawrelak Park
· anywhere designated as a no-smoking area for cannabis or tobacco