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Banff survey seeks input on cannabis use

The Town of Banff is asking the public for feedback if it should change the bylaw that regulates smoking and vaping recreational cannabis a year after legalization and should smoking and vaping tobacco be regulated more strictly
Cannabis
A year after the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada, the Town of Banff is looking for public feedback into municipal regulations on smoking and vaping. RMO FILE PHOTO
BANFF – The Town of Banff is seeking public input on the municipality’s regulations on smoking and vaping cannabis a year after recreational pot was legalized in Canada.

Smoking and vaping in public is banned in the Banff townsite, though Parks Canada allows it on national parks lands, but with some restrictions.

“It’s been one year since cannabis was legalized, and as directed by council, we are checking in with the public to see how people are feeling about the current rules,” said Alison Gerrits, the Town of Banff’s community services director.

“It felt like an appropriate amount of time to check in with the community to see what their thoughts are as to whether people are comfortable with leaving things as is, or if a loosening of restrictions is desired.”

On Oct. 17, 2018, the federal government legalized the consumption of recreational cannabis and provincial governments across Canada implemented legislation about smoking, vaping and retailing pot. Municipalities in Alberta were given the authority to set their own regulations around public consumption and retail restrictions. 

In Banff’s case, council took a more restrictive approach than the provincial regulations.

“They did so, acknowledging that they had the option to loosen restrictions down the road if they felt it appropriate to do so,” said Gerrits.

Currently, the Town of Banff does not designate any public spaces where smoking or vaping cannabis is allowed.

The survey asks whether this should be maintained, or whether one or more pavilions could provided where it would be allowed.

“There are communities who use designated areas for smoking or vaping, so there are options to consider,” said Mayor Karen Sorensen.

The second part of the survey deals with tobacco use.

Gerrits said that during the cannabis public smoking policy debate, some questions emerged as to whether there was an appetite to make any changes to the current tobacco smoking regulation.

“As a result, we are currently seeking feedback from the public on whether or not Banff should consider loosening restrictions to its current bylaw with respect to smoking or vaping cannabis in public, and whether Banff should or shouldn’t consider more restrictive changes to the smoking of tobacco in public,” she said.

Presently, provincial laws prohibit smoking tobacco in certain public places; in a workplace; in a vehicle in which a minor is present; in a public vehicle; or within five metres from a doorway of a public place or workplace.

The Town of Banff does not have additional restrictions on smoking and vaping tobacco, although some municipalities have. Calgary and Edmonton ban smoking tobacco in playgrounds, sports fields, transit property and main municipal plazas.

Should council choose to regulate the smoking of tobacco more strictly, the survey indicates it would would mean adding more areas within the townsite where the smoking of tobacco could be prohibited, such as in parks or playgrounds where tobacco smoking is currently allowed through the provincial act.

“All of these questions are being asked of the public, and will be included in a report that goes back to council in early 2020,” said Gerrits.

Mayor Sorensen said she expects a vast number of different responses in the survey.

“Council hasn’t talked about this issue since a year ago,” she said. “I expect this survey will be a prompt to re-enter the conversation.”

The survey can be found on Town of Banff’s website at www.banff.ca