Town council in Gananoque is getting pushback over its proposed bylaw to regulate where people can smoke recreational marijuana.
If the bylaw is approved by the town council, cannabis smokers would not be allowed to spark up anywhere in public, including sidewalks, nature trails, public parks or marinas. The guidelines are seeing a mixed response from town residents as well.
A petition has been launched asking council to reconsider what’s being called a heavy-handed approach to restricting smokers. The proposal was endorsed by the outgoing mayor of Gananoque, Erika Demchuk. However, newly elected mayor, Ted Lojko, thinks it’s too much.
“I’m not exactly sure what went through their heads to put this forward so quickly,” says Lojko. “It’s a very restrictive bylaw.”
“I don’t smoke it, but I really feel they should wait until the new town council comes in and let them decide,” says Tanya Dwyer. “There are bigger issues to worry about in this town.”
While there are rules governed by the province, modelled around the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, municipalities can set out their own framework on how they can enforce where someone can smoke. They are also free to opt in or out on whether they want a cannabis retail shop in their region.
WATCH: ‘It’s being totally dropped on the lap of the municipalities: Kingston officials voice concerns regarding the future of cannabis shops
Although the mayor-elect doesn’t get sworn in until December, Lojko says he has heard complaints from the general public regarding the restrictions.
“A lot of people have called me,” said Lojko.
But Demchuk believes it sets a standard that is fair to residents.
“It’s a drug, it’s the same as alcohol and recreational. So why shouldn’t it follow the same rules,” Demchuk said.
Last Tuesday, the committee as a whole passed the bylaw that would restrict pot smokers from consuming marijuana anywhere in public. The proposal was put forward by the town’s police chief, Garry Hull.
“Leading up to the legislation, there were numerous concerns about the actual smell of cannabis,” Hull said. “Why would we want to allow people to impair themselves in a public place, making others deal with smoke and other issues.”
Lojko believes it’s the wrong way to move forward and doesn’t follow where the province is heading.
“None of those rules say you can’t smoke in public. You can smoke in public, but there are restrictions on where in public you can smoke,” Lojko says.
Those guidelines were laid out by the provincial government in October. Smokers in the province can consume cannabis in public but are limited to the same restrictions enforced under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act. These proposed rules in Gananoque will only allow smokers to light up indoors.
Gananoque is not the first community to come up with a bylaw that restricts pot smokers. Markham passed a similar bylaw, restricting consumption to private residences. Calgary passed regulations with similar restrictions in April.
WATCH: Calgary cannabis stores open on historic day
Gananoque town council is set to vote on the proposed bylaw next week. Incoming mayor Ted Lojko says his council will be taking a second look when they take office in December.
“There’s no reason that we are not following provincial guidelines at this point.”