The Town of Hay River is going to consider banning the smoking of cannabis in public places.
At an Aug. 28 meeting of council, Coun. Keith Dohey introduced a motion to direction administration to draft a bylaw prohibiting the consumption of cannabis in public areas within municipal boundaries.
The motion quickly passed unanimously with no comment by any councillors.
“It was just a notice of motion to get administration to draft a bylaw,” Dohey told The Hub. “So until we see a bylaw and pass it, there’d be nothing in place. Other than what my motion actually said, I don’t know what that will totally look like.”
The councillor is hoping for a bylaw before Oct. 17, when cannabis officially becomes legal under federal legislation.
“I think it would make sense to have something on paper beforehand,” he said. “We’re going into, I guess, kind of an unknown situation after it becomes legal. We don’t know really what it’s going to look like. So I think it makes more sense to start with those stronger rules with the potential to maybe relax them as we try and move on and figure out what that situation is.”
Dohey added a bylaw would give council some time after cannabis becomes legal to possibly go out to community members and discuss what they want, once everyone looks at how legalization goes.
“I think it’s a lot easier to start with something on paper than it would be to try and change established behaviour later if it were to become a problem,” he said.
Dohey suggested that cannabis might just be treated like alcohol.
“You can’t consume alcohol out in public,” he said. “It needs to be sold and consumed in designated areas and I can see cannabis eventually being the same way.”
Dohey said that might even include separate marked-off areas at some events.
With the Oct. 15 municipal election just a month and a half away, the councillor said consultations with the public after a bylaw might be passed will likely be left for the next council, although he said the current council will have some time to talk to residents.
“I would like to see something passed, even if it’s just an interim measure until the next council gets a chance to look at it,” he said.
Dohey said he has heard various concerns from residents.
“Obviously some people feel that it should be just like a cigarette, and some people feel it should be treated like alcohol, and there are some people that feel that we shouldn’t be doing it at all. But that’s not the reality,” he said.
Dohey noted many residents are concerned by the possibility of cannabis users smoking on the sidewalks.
“People don’t necessarily want to be walking through cannabis smoke with their kids going out of grocery stores and things like that,” he said.
Mayor Brad Mapes thinks community members need to be consulted more on the coming cannabis legalization, noting there are still many questions such as where people can smoke it.
“I think that it’s great that the motion has come forward,” Mapes said, referring to Dohey’s motion on Aug. 28. “It probably should have been addressed sooner.”