RED DEER - The consumption of cannabis in public will be prohibited in the city of Red Deer.
City council voted unanimously in favour of the ban on Tuesday, Sept. 4. Changes made to the Smoke-Free Bylaw come into effect October 17 when recreational cannabis becomes legal and they apply to any public place, with the exception of someone’s home. Bans there can be enforced by a property owner or landlord.
The prohibition also applies to medical users, who may consume cannabis in public, as long as they can provide proof of exemption to law enforcement, and they abide by the rules for smoking tobacco.
“We have those who have the right to use it for medical purposes competing with those who have the right to not be exposed for health purposes,” said Mayor Tara Veer. “I think we’ve done the best we can with the circumstances we have. The good news about a bylaw is we can always amend it if necessary.”
Council also explored the possibility of putting the snuff on pot consumption in multi-unit dwellings with four or more units. That proposal was defeated, with councillors Tanya Handley and Vesna Higham the only two to vote in favour.
“We had to get something on the books by October to protect the public from secondhand cannabis smoke,” Handley said recounting a past experience when the odour of "skunkweed" made her life miserable. “I am disappointed that the amendment for multi-family housing didn’t pass and I do feel for those who may be in a position where they don’t have good neighbours and are unable to move based on their circumstances like my experience.”
Higham added that she hopes the province is listening.
"I implore the province to turn over the large majority of that 75 per cent they will be receiving from the taxing of cannabis to municipalities to deal with enforcement issues that we surely will be facing," she said.
A part of council's rationale for rejecting the amendment to ban consumption in multi-unit housing was around it being unenforceable. City Manager Craig Curtis pointed out that no one person is required to allow enforcement into their residence without a warrant, and by the time one is obtained, the potential violation would be dealt with. As well, though Alberta Health Services recommended this type of ban, council heard from administration that no other Canadian municipality has implemented such a policy.
Council did approve the fine structure for anyone who violates these new rules. A first offence will ding someone $200, while a second will cost you $500, both of which can be paid through The City. Any subsequent penalties will range from $500-$2500 and will require a court appearance.
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