No plans to allow drinking alcohol in public, but smoking cannabis OK: N.S. justice minister

Mark Furey, Nova Scotia's justice minister, pictured in Halifax on Oct. 5, 2018. Steve Silva / Global News

Nova Scotia residents will be allowed to smoke cannabis in designated public spaces later this month, but drinking alcohol will continue to be prohibited in public except at certain events.

“Public consumption of alcohol has led to behaviours that the general public would see to be inappropriate and unacceptable,” Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey said on Friday.

The minister was asked to clarify if excessive alcohol consumption is the real problem.

“We have no control over how much somebody consumes, respecting the rights of people around them. You’re talking about social responsibility around the consumption of alcohol. That is best facilitated through the licensed regime of drinking establishments and special permits that are often issued for these types of requests,” said Furey.

He said the provincial government’s objective has been to find a balance between the rights of cannabis smokers and public health and safety.

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Based on public feedback, there was an expectation of some consumption of cannabis in public, but it would be in certain locations, including away from where young people gather, Furey said.

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“We know, and I can tell you from 32 years experience in policing, the behaviours of those under the consumption of alcohol differ significantly than the behaviours of those under the consumption of cannabis,” he said.

“[It’s] not uncommon that those under the influence of alcohol become aggressive, depending on the circumstances, and those under the consumption of cannabis [become] more docile.”

Several landlords are planning to ban or have already banned smoking on their properties, which means designated public spaces to smoke may be some cannabis smokers’ only option.

The idea of legalizing alcohol in parks and on beaches has come up in Toronto and Vancouver, both of which are in the midst of municipal elections. As well, both cities are in provinces that will allow people to toke in public come Oct. 17.

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READ MORE: NSLC unveils concept of ‘bright, open’ cannabis outlets

Toronto Mayor John Tory floated the idea at an event Thursday, pointing out that it would seem counter-intuitive to allow people to smoke pot in parks but not drink a beer — especially since people are already bringing wine and beer to their picnics.

“I know from being in the parks now that it’s quite a widespread practice of people having a glass of wine, and it doesn’t seem the world has come to an end as a result of that,” Tory told reporters, following a graduation ceremony for police recruits.

Shaune MacKinlay, a spokesperson for Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, said the topic of allowing drinking alcohol in public, which is the provincial government’s responsibility, is not being considered by the mayor.

With files from The Canadian Press

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