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Edmonton councillors put cannabis bylaw on hold for more public engagement

Edmonton councillors put cannabis bylaw on hold for more public engagement

After seemingly deciding Tuesday where cannabis and tobacco smoking will and won’t be allowed in Edmonton, councillors have hit the pause button.

On Wednesday, a motion was passed that gives council the opportunity to amend the smoking bylaw.

The issue will come back to council on Sept. 12.

In the meantime, council wants the city to do further public engagement on tobacco in high-traffic areas like Jasper Avenue and Whyte Avenue.

READ MORE: Where will you be allowed to smoke cannabis in Edmonton? Council sets rules

The mayor also wants to make sure the hospitality industry and other stakeholders are consulted regarding possible unintended consequences of the proposed bylaw.

“I think we should pause,” Don Iveson said. “We have until Oct. 17 to finalize the bylaw.”

Iveson explained the ideas sprang up rather quickly during Tuesday’s meeting and says the city doesn’t need fast action on this decision.

Councillors also want to look at tobacco and cannabis separately.

READ MORE: Wood Buffalo bans all public smoking and vaping before marijuana legalization

The goal on Tuesday was to make cannabis and cigarette restrictions exactly the same because enforcement officials have said it will be difficult differentiating 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.

“That does make people feel unwelcome,” Coun. Jon Dziadyk said.

“The extend that bylaw enforcement would be chasing down people just having a cigarette where they’d traditionally have always had cigarettes would be a huge concern.”

“Those were provisions that were introduced all with the best of intent,” Iveson added, “but we haven’t had an opportunity for our public to weigh in on those because those came forward really yesterday at the council meeting.

“I know they were discussed at some level and to some degree at committee.”

Iveson said he’s heard a lot of reaction in the last 12 hours.

“We heard from smokers, we heard from business folks who had concerns and then it didn’t quite sit right with me overnight,” he said.

Specifically, he said, people are asking: what happens on Jasper or Whyte avenues or other entertainment districts, where entrance doors are less than 10 metres apart? It means it’s impossible to legally smoke anywhere on the sidewalk.

“If we essentially push them into the street or into the back lane, that may not be safe or practical in certain parts of the city,” the mayor said.

“We need to take a close look at that so that we don’t have conflict, we don’t have people trying to enforce this themselves and wind up in a tough situation. I just wanted to make sure we really took a look at that because there were some questions raised overnight that I thought were valid.”

On Tuesday, the motion to implement more restrictive rules surrounding tobacco and marijuana smoke passed in a close vote of 7-6.

“The best advice we’ve received is start a little more restrictive and ease restrictions over time based on experience rather than start overly permissive and then as people become accustomed to certain things, it would be difficult to take them away,” Iveson said.

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

Therefore, you would be able to smoke on sidewalks but only if you’re 10 metres away from any entrance, exit, window or patio. You’d also only be allowed to smoke in parks that don’t have children’s amenities.

READ MORE: Edmonton opts to avoid aggressive restrictive cannabis prohibition

Council will vote on third reading in September on the bylaw to get the marijuana portion ready in time for the October federal launch. In the meantime, the city hopes to sort through the tobacco challenges.

Recreational marijuana is set to become legal in Canada on Oct. 17.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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