Morinville pulls back on cannabis laws

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Provincial rules enough for now, says council

Morinville residents will stick to the provincial rules when it comes to where they can smoke a joint in public, town council has decided – for now.

Town council voted 4-3 to accept a report on a proposed cannabis control bylaw for information Oct. 9 instead of bringing it to first reading, with the rider that council revisit the idea of a bylaw within a year if needed. Mayor Barry Turner and councillors Nicole Boutestein and Lawrence Giffin were opposed.

Recreational cannabis becomes legal in Canada on Oct. 17. While the province has set out some basic rules on where it can be consumed in public (anywhere but a car, school, hospital, day-care, cannabis store, places within five meters of certain parks and zoos, or a no-smoking zone) it has also allowed municipalities to set more stringent ones.

St. Albert has banned cannabis from all public places except for medicinal purposes, for example, while Edmonton allows it in some parks and beyond 10 meters from any air intake, doorway, window, or patio. Strathcona County recently decided not to pass a consumption bylaw, town council heard.

Morinville enforcement services manager William Norton proposed a bylaw that would allow cannabis use on private property, in designated public areas, and while travelling on a sidewalk provided you were at least 10 metres from any patio, park, doorway, window, fire hall, police station, air intake, or civic work place. It would require users to not grow cannabis plants in their front yard and to keep any cannabis smoke or vapour from blowing into neighbouring homes. Violators would be fined $250 or up to $10,000 on court conviction.

Council concerns

Boutestein voiced concern that people could be fined under this bylaw despite following the rules if the wind happened to blow smoke into a neighbour’s yard.

“Welcome to my world,” Norton replied, explaining that such situations often happen with backyard fire pits.

Turner said the public was divided on cannabis, and wanted this bylaw to go to a public hearing so residents could have their voices heard. Boutestein agreed, adding that having a local bylaw would make it easier for town residents to understand the rules.

Coun. Stephen Dafoe argued this law was unnecessary, as it mirrored provincial regulations except when it came to growing cannabis outdoors (something he said was impractical in Alberta’s climate), the 10-metre rule for sidewalks (which Edmonton’s council had taken a lot of criticism over), and drifting smoke (which the town’s fire bylaw already covered).

Dafoe and Coun. Sarah Hall said the town should try using the provincial regulations for now and check back within a year to see if they were enough.

“This is a product the government has made legal, and people need to be able to legally consume it within reason. The provincial regulations do that,” he said.

Rules patchwork

Sturgeon County is a regulatory patchwork when it comes to cannabis consumption, with each community taking a different approach. Gibbons decided earlier this year to stick to the provincial regulations, for example, while Sturgeon County was still working on a bylaw of its own.

Bon Accord and Redwater mayors David Hutton and Mel Smith said their councils would debate total public bans on cannabis use this Oct. 16. Robert Proulx, chief administrative officer for the Town of Legal, said he was drafting a similar ban for his council’s consideration later this year.

The Alberta (and Morinville) cannabis consumption rules can be found at bit.ly/2qOGaJD.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.