The Canadian city of St. Albert has banned all cannabis use with a vote by city council on Monday night. The move by the city of more than 65,000 residents in the province of Alberta comes as Canada is poised to legalize the recreational use and sale of cannabis this fall.
St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron told the CBC that the council had followed the advice of the provincial health agency Alberta Health.
“Their suggestion was it’s easier to go very restrictive now and loosen it up as we become more aware and more educated and the fear and the unknown starts to dissipate,” Heron said. “But it would be much harder to go the other way. So if we were very loose with our regulations, it would be hard to clamp down if we felt we had made a mistake.”
“We will err on the side of caution,” the mayor added.
Heron said that the city had conducted a survey of residents to judge their opinions on the upcoming national legalization of cannabis.
“I think there’s a lot of concern. There’s a lot of unknown with cannabis becoming legal,” Heron said. “Honestly, I’ve just heard a lot of fear and people do not understand what this means.”
Heron said that about half of those surveyed favored a ban on the smoking and vaping of cannabis in public places. Those who felt public consumption should be allowed still felt that cannabis use should be prohibited in restaurant patios, transit stops, and parks.
“We didn’t want our young children in the city to see the smoking of anything to become a good thing,” Heron said.
“The majority of residents in St. Albert really were concerned with the smell of cannabis smoke and the secondhand nature of the cannabis smoke — and really, they were worried about a risk about the normalization of smoking again,” Heron said.
Heron said that she supported an amendment that would have only prohibited smoking and vaping in public, but the council opted for a ban on all cannabis use.
“There’s going to be a whole segment of society where the use of cannabis will not be through inhalation. It will be through consumption, whether it’s oils or whether you take some of the product and convert it into an edible,” Heron said. “I was hoping that amendment would pass, but it failed.”
The mayor added that she accepted banning all use in order to preserve the smoking and vaping prohibitions.
“I still wanted to really attack the smoking and vaping side of it, so my only avenue was to do a total ban,” she said.
Tobacco Rules Also Up For Review
Heron said that the city council and other local governments will also be reviewing the rules governing the public use of tobacco products as the legalization of cannabis approaches.
“I think there’s probably some feeling in the city, and maybe many cities across Alberta, that the legalization of cannabis does provide an opportunity to tighten up the rules on smoking of tobacco as well,” Heron said.
Heron said that current regulations, which allow smoking at playgrounds, are too lenient.
“I’ve never been very comfortable with that,” Heron said. “Now with the legalization of cannabis, we have the opportunity to really think twice about where people are lighting up whatever product they’re using.”