Sylvan Lake town council is mulling a public cannabis ban.
Recreational marijuana use is expected to be legalized by late summer. Legal or not, public cannabis consumption would be prohibited if council goes through with a bylaw proposed when it met as a committee of the whole last week.
Last month, Calgary passed its Cannabis Consumption Bylaw, which bans the public consumption of cannabis, similar to the regulations around alcohol. It is the only municipality to take that step so far.
However, at Monday’s council meeting councillors appeared to be having second thoughts on an outright cannabis ban. After debating the issue, staff were directed to bring back options that would treat cannabis consumption like smoking, which is banned from some venues and must be done outside certain distances from doorways.
At the same time, council is looking at how to deal with cannabis it is toughening up its smoking bylaw. Under proposed changes, setbacks from doorways would be increased to five metres from three metres. Smoking would be prohibited in public parks or playgrounds, school or child care facility properties, playgrounds, sports or playing fields, skate or bike parks, outdoor theatre, pools or splash pads, and any municipal facility that is frequented by children.
The bylaw is also being updated to include hookahs and the increasingly popular vaping.
Town communication officer Joanne Gaudet said council gave the bylaw amendments for smoking first reading. But councillors held off on first reading on cannabis until it gets a report back.
“I would say they are considering a blanket ban,” said Gaudet, adding that are other options, such as treating cannabis like tobacco, remain under consideration.
An outright ban on cannabis may not be as easy at it looks.
Town administration recommended that council treat cannabis like tobacco rather than risk legal issues.
“Administration is making this recommendation as we believe a total ban on the consumption of cannabis in public places will incite a legal challenge that could cost the municipality many thousands of dollars to defend as there is no legal precedent set,” says a report to council from interim chief administrative officer Ron Lebsack.