Bonnyville Council Changing its Mind on Public Smoking of Cannabis

With legalization day looming, Bonnyville is unsure of how it wants to deal with cannabis in the long-term.

After deciding to re-open the bylaw surrounding signage for a business, the town is now proposing a new cannabis smoking bylaw that would be similar to alcohol.

Right now, cannabis falls under the town’s smoking bylaw. That means some public smoking will be legal in Bonnyville. But not anywhere you can’t smoke cigarettes, or outside of hospitals, schools, child care facilities, playgrounds, athletic fields, or outdoor pools and parks.

By a 4-3 vote (Sobolewski, McEvoy, Colbourne) council chose to draft a new bylaw similar to AGLC’s rules for alcohol.

“It’s going to be a lot easier to loosen it up, rather than tighten it up a year from now,” said Councilor Ray Prevost.

He voted in favour of a potential amendment, but isn’t opposed to the smoking bylaw either.

“I think we’ve got to walk a little bit before we run on this issue. Nobody knows what the ramifications of legalized cannabis are going to be, we’re just guessing. There may be none, there may be several.

“My point of view is it’s an intoxicating substance no different than alcohol, and I just don’t feel that we should start too soft,” he said.

Administration will work on putting it together, but not in time for legalization day next Wednesday. The town will go with what they’ve already passed until this bylaw comes to the table and is debated.

“I didn’t agree with the principle of it,” said Mayor Gene Sobolewski who voted against the motion.

He explains that council might find a lot of complexities when trying to write a new bylaw.

“I’m more inclined to examine it, and I think the direction that was decided by council is going to be a little more problematic, particularly with enforcement,” said Sobolewski.

Cannabis will be a non-regulated substance, so it is both the town’s cost and duty to enforce, not the RCMP.

A couple weeks ago at a province wide municipalities conference, delegates passed an extraordinary resolution that requests the province take a consistent approach to cannabis, with a ban on use in public places, to help with the confusion that’s been rolling out from community to community.

This is one of the reasons council re-opened the topic.

“I’m fairly certain that within a couple years it’s going to be a regulated substance anyway,” said Sobolewski. “Likely fall under the purview of AGLC or some entity like that. But in that particular case enforcement would be RCMP, not bylaw.”

Council also passed first reading on an amendment to the land use bylaw that would no longer restrict cannabis retail stores from having only one sign. That was after a letter from a prospective cannabis retailer.

A public hearing will be held Nov. 13 at 6pm.