By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
Since Bill C-45 passed in 2018, which made recreational cannabis federally legal in Canada, municipalities have been tasked with determining bylaws outlining the specifics of public cannabis consumption and sales. At Coaldale town council’s regular meeting on Oct. 12, council discussed proposed amendments to Bylaw 745-R-09-18, which currently prohibits cannabis use in all public spaces punishable with fines ranging from $115-$500.
Chief Administrative Officer Kalen Hastings explained, “Really the purpose of bringing it here today was to discuss removing Schedule A, the fee section of this bylaw, and not look at the policy elements of it.”
The fee would be reintegrated with Bylaw 781-C-04-20, which is designated as a rates and fees bylaw.
However, Coun. Roger Hohm’s voiced his concerns of the policy itself.
“I just don’t want to have confusing bylaws in here where a person can be sitting having a cigarette outside of the sportsplex and not get charged by bylaw enforcement officer, but if they’re smoking a marijuana cigarette, now we have a municipal bylaw. There’s something wrong with this. It doesn’t fit with me.”
Smoking and vaping cannabis in public is currently prohibited in the bylaw. However, the bylaw broadly prohibits all kinds of cannabis consumption in public spaces, which would also include government regulated products such as edible oils, beverages, capsules, and edible food goods. Supervised alcohol consumption sites like bars, pubs, and licensed restaurants permit alcohol consumption in a designated space, and Coaldale currently does not have any bylaws addressing alcohol or tobacco consumption in public spaces.
“I’m just wondering why we have a cannabis consumption bylaw, but we don’t for alcohol or tobacco?” asked Hohm.
Coun. Chapman stated that “the safe and healthy communities group that have been really quite concerned about some of these items including tobacco and alcohol in that respect, mainly from a public perspective.”
However, Coaldale does not have any bylaws, or fee schedules in place with respect to the public consumption of either tobacco or alcohol.
In response to Hohm’s policy concerns, Hastings reiterated changing the actual bylaw would, “Require a full overhaul” and council would not be tackling related policy concerns at this time, “We weren’t prepared to discuss those questions at this particular meeting”.
Considerations were made with respect to bylaws in deciding how to address government regulated retail cannabis spaces in a newly regulated industry without any Canadian precedent, Cam Mills, Manager of Economic Development at the Town of Coaldale says.
“As part of our efforts toward legalization we had to make amendments to the land use bylaw, to accommodate retail sales and then we also had to consider whether or not to have regulations with respect to consumption.”
These recommendations are as Mills puts it, “(on), what you might describe as, the more conservative side of the spectrum, in terms of regulating the establishments of retail sales. We also established the cannabis consumption bylaw.”
The Cannabis Consumption bylaw is responsible for governing the municipality of Coaldale with respect to the public consumption of cannabis. Mills says the public engagement on the issue of cannabis legalization was an issue with, “probably the issue we received the highest volume of public engagement on.” Calling the public discourse surrounding Bill C-45, and the formation of the bylaw “polarizing”.
“It’s, of course, at any point, something that could be brought up by council and the decision could be made to change that. Perhaps there are lessons learned over the last three years that may be something that makes sense to consider but until that is done the bylaw, we have in place is the regulation.”
The bylaw, now three years old, was drafted before regulated cannabis was on the legal market. Council voted in favour of a second and third reading of the bylaw to remove Schedule A from the bylaw, but Mills says there is potential for a standalone motion to address the specific contents of the bylaw in the future.