Stettler County council voted against a lenient cannabis bylaw in favour of more restrictive regulations.
A smoking bylaw dealing with cannabis presented by administration was defeated after Reeve Larry Clarke, Councillors Cheri Neitz, Dave Grover and James Nibourg voted against it during their Aug. 8 meeting. Councillors Wayne Nixon and Ernie Gendre voted in favour.
Instead, a revised and more restrictive amended bylaw proposed by Coun. Nibourg passed. The amendment includes a change in the definition of public space. The definition will be expanded to include streets, sidewalks, green spaces, walking trails and outdoor recreation areas. The current definition defines a public place as sports fields, recreation facilities and outdoor areas.
Coun. Nixon voted against the motion.
He said council shouldn’t make the bylaw too restrictive or they may get pushback from the public.
“It’s good to go middle of the road and go from there.”
But Coun. Nibourg disagreed.
“It’s easier to lighten up.”
Coun. Neitz agreed saying, “It’s easier to lighten up.”
Council also passed a motion directing administration to find out if they can separate cannabis and tobacco smoking and create two bylaws instead of one.
Coun. Nibourg said the two should be separated pointing out that second-hand cannabis smoke can intoxicate a person. He said someone exposed to second-hand cannabis smoke could be stopped and test positive for cannabis.
“I do have a problem with that.”
The federal government passed the Cannabis Act, a bill legalizing marijuana effective Oct. 17. The provincial government approved a bill amending the Gaming and Liquor Act to the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act. In addition, they created regulations for retail cannabis stores, which the province will oversee. The federal government will regulate cannabis production. The provincial government will regulate its distribution and retail sales, in cooperation with municipalities.
Stettler County did research and engaged the public before drafting municipal regulations dealing with relation locations, public consumption, land use, taxation and education. The county engaged with the public from May to July 2018, holding town halls and an online survey.
The survey wasn’t limited to Stettler County residents.
“Some respondents were from town,” said Shawna Benson, Stettler County Legislative Services. “We weren’t going to exclude those because they are part of our community.”
Benson said discussions and the survey show that public is more concerned about the consumption of cannabis than the location of cannabis stores.
Six-hundred-thirty-four people responded to the county’s online survey. Fifty-eight per cent supported the legalization of cannabis, 36 didn’t support it and six per cent had no opinion.
The five main concerns about legalizing cannabis included impaired driving (63 per cent), public smoking (56 per cent), odours from smoking (44 per cent), public education for youth and families (50 per cent) and work place safety (42 per cent).
Forty-six per cent preferred that Stettler County not allow public consumption of cannabis and 38 per cent were OK with consumption on green spaces and municipal reserves that aren’t playgrounds. Twenty-eight per cent were OK with cannabis consumption on trails. Twenty per cent were in favour of cannabis consumption on hamlet streets and sidewalks. Sixty per cent either strongly or somewhat agreed that consumption should only be limited to private residences and properties.
A public hearing dealing with the bylaw is set for Sept. 12 in county council chambers.