Fort Saskatchewan mayor Gale Katchur was ready to cheer Tuesday night after city council agreed to finally put a new smoking bylaw on the books.
The now approved bylaw establishes rules for cannabis, tobacco and vaporizer use in the city, adding some restrictions to mandatory provincial regulations that already ban smoking of tobacco and cannabis in public places, workplaces and vehicles.
The new bylaw means that cannabis smoking will not be allowed in public spaces in Fort Saskatchewan. It also sets out some expanded rules for tobacco smoking and vaporizers, banning anyone from smoking or vaping within 10 metres of a number of shared areas including sports fields, playgrounds, schools and parks.
Councillor Deanna Lennox, who pushed for added tobacco restrictions, was pleased with the changes.
"I asked administration to take this back to consider places where children were mostly present,” she said. “And I think that this does a good job of finding areas where children would be present and protecting them."
At a September 11 meeting council decided to abandon a version of the bylaw that would have banned all types of smoking in public except in designated areas. Councillor Jibs Abitoye said she learned while going door to door this summer that most residents didn’t want to see tobacco and cannabis treated with the same set of rules.
"And I'm very glad we're not going in that direction. I'm also very happy that we've been conservative on cannabis restrictions and also keeping tobacco far away from our kids because I think that's important."
The bylaw does not restrict cannabis consumption on private property. It also does not make any exemptions for medical cannabis use. City staff said they will continue to reassess the medical use issue as the new federal regulation rolls out.
All levels of government have been playing a part in setting out rules for buying, consuming and growing cannabis ahead of its legalization on October 17. City councillors have been working for months to get ready for the day, putting the smoking bylaw through a number of revisions and amendments since first getting a look at it in May, and sending it back to staff for more work in June and September.
Through months of discussion about the bylaw council heard from a number of law enforcement professionals, health advocates and members of the public who shared their concerns about cannabis use in Fort Saskatchewan. The city also administered two surveys looking for public input on the issue.
Brian Kelly was one of several councillors who thanked administration for their hard work on the new regulation. He said the entire process has been an interesting learning experience.
Katchur said council will keep an eye on the cannabis use issue as it unfolds.
“I don't envy protective services as of October 17. I think there's just going to be lots more that's going to happen over the next months."