City committee recommends allowing smoking of cannabis on sidewalks

Some city councillors think people should be allowed to smoke cannabis in outside public places like parks and sidewalks — as part of the new bylaw governing cannabis use.

Councillors still have chance to adapt bylaw in July meeting

A City of Edmonton committee recommended the city adapts the tobacco-smoking rules to cannabis. (Getty Images)

A city committee thinks Edmontonians should be allowed to smoke cannabis in outside public places like parks and sidewalks — as part of the new bylaw governing cannabis use.

On Wednesday, the city's community and public services committee agreed to those rules, which are similar to current tobacco bylaws.

People smoking cannabis outside would have to be 10 metres away from doors and open windows and 30 metres away from children's amenities, like playgrounds.

Smoking weed would also be banned on patios and at places like schools.

Similar to tobacco and electronic cigarettes, you won't be able to smoke legally in Churchill Square, Fort Edmonton Park or the zoo.

The committee had other options available — they could have chosen stricter rules, similar to alcohol consumption — but chose to support the more relaxed regulations.

Coun. Ben Henderson supports the decision by the committee, but said there will likely be "unintended consequences" regardless of which option they choose.

"If we make it too restrictive about where people can use it ... then where are people going to partake of a substance that presumably will be legal shortly?" Henderson said Wednesday.

But Coun. Michael Walters disagreed with the recommendations.

"It's not quite restrictive enough," Walters said. "I don't think the committee went far enough today."

He doesn't support smoking on public sidewalks and in sports and recreation fields. He's seen no evidence in other jurisdictions of unintended consequences as a result of stricter rules, but said the landscape will likely change next year anyway once edibles are legal.

Whyte Avenue businesses concerned

Some businesses on Whyte Avenue are concerned the second-hand smoke will affect their business in the summer months.

Adam Zarycki, the assistant manager at Knifewear, said the business often keeps its door open in the summer months to invite customers in. He wants the city to revisit all smoking-in-public laws.

"Having a store that smells like any kind of cigarette is not ideal," Zarycki told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. "Not everybody wants to breathe that smoke."

Should people be allowed to smoke pot on sidewalks and patios? Edmontonians tend to say "no" in surveys but what do businesses on Whyte Avenue think? 7:29
Adam Zarycki, assistant manager at Knifewear on Whyte Avenue, says they will prop the door open in the summer and second-hand smoke will often pour in. (Tim Adams/CBC)

He often sees cigarette butts littered on the avenue and is concerned he'll see remnants of joints too. "It adds to the debris on Whyte Avenue and gives it an unsightly look," he said.

Chris Hansen, the owner of the Burlington On Whyte tobacco shop, said there should be different regulations for smoking tobacco and smoking cannabis.

"If people smoke marijuana for ostensibly the same sort of reasons as they drink alcohol, then the regulations ought to be similar," Hansen said.

But he said policing the ability to smoke on sidewalks is going to be difficult. "If we're going to start regulating the smells that walk by on Whyte Avenue, it will become a much less busy street," he said.

Chris Hansen from Burlington on Whyte says the two substances should be regulated differently, so there should be different rules about where you can smoke cannabis. (Tim Adams/CBC)

Sara Doran, manager at Jupiter Cannabis on Whyte Avenue, agrees that a law that prohibits smoking on sidewalks would be hard to enforce. But she said a solution that might serve everyone would be dedicated businesses that have licences to allow people to smoke cannabis.

"If there's a lounge with a patio, where I'm allowed to smoke cannabis on the patio, then I think that would be better," Doran said. "I think it also creates a safe space and it also encourages responsibility."

The committee's decision Wednesday isn't the final word — council can still make amendments to the bylaw at a July 4 meeting.

Sara Doran, manager at Jupiter Cannabis on Whyte Avenue, says designated places to smoke cannabis may be the best option. (Tim Adams/CBC)

With files from Tim Adams and Natasha Riebe

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