Pot prohibition, with exceptions?

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Committee recommends limited exemptions to a pot-free St. Albert

If you want to light up a joint in St. Albert, there might be some strict limits on where you can do that.

City councillors are looking to bring in pot rules that prohibit smoking and vaping cannabis within the city, except in very specific areas.

You could still smoke up on your own property, or in smoking areas of outdoor public events, but aside from that the options are slim. Public smoking could only happen on sidewalks, and you would have to make sure you are five metres away from a litany of areas.

Some of the no-smoking areas are no-brainers: you couldn’t smoke pot within five metres of a police station, or St. Albert Place, and don’t bring your weed to the fire hall.

Transit centres, outdoor pools, sports fields, skate parks and other city recreational areas would also be off-limits. If you’re caught lighting up within five metres of any of them, you could be hit with a $250 fine.

The full list of exceptions can be found in the draft of a bylaw specifically governing consumption.

“It basically makes all of St. Albert a place where you can’t smoke cannabis, with the exception of those areas which are allowed, as opposed to the other way around,” said Coun. Wes Brodhead, who said he supports the bylaw.

Councillors will make their final decision on June 25. However, on June 18 during a meeting of the governance, priorities and finance committee, they hashed out some of the herb hurdles that lie ahead, such as how to handle medical marijuana users.

While Coun. Natalie Joly proposed an exemption for medical marijuana users, the majority of councillors voted against that. That means you wouldn’t be let of the hook for breaking the bylaw’s rules even if you have medical weed needs.

“We don’t really think it’s necessary and we actually believe it might make enforcement more difficult,” said solicitor Marta Caufield, who presented the bylaw to the committee.

In her report to council, Caufield wrote that the city has arguments prepared to defend against any charter challenge since the proposed bylaw allows some exceptions to pot prohibition.

What about edibles?

If pot brownies are more up your alley, the proposed bylaw doesn’t currently limit where you can eat your special snack of choice – something Mayor Cathy Heron says she wants changed.

Caufield said one of the difficulties with limiting edibles is how hard it would be to enforce that, given how undetectable cannabis oil can be.

Once provincial and federal guidelines are in place for edibles, it would be easier for the city to include that in the bylaw, she said.

Heron said she understands the difficulty with enforcing a prohibition on edibles but wants rules for edibles.

“The enforcement issue is an issue. But if this council doesn’t want eating of cannabis in public parks, then that should be in the bylaw,” she said.

“I guess we (as a council) need to figure this out – not just based on how difficult it is to enforce, but what we morally believe.”

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April Hudson