Richmond Hill to ban cannabis use in public
Council votes unanimously to ban vaping and smoking cannabis in parks, sidewalks
During a special council meeting on Oct. 18, the day after cannabis legalization came into effect in Canada, Richmond Hill Town Council unanimously passed a bylaw to ban the smoking and vaping of cannabis in all public areas in the town, including parks, sidewalks and trails.
Chief administrative officer, Town of Richmond Hill, Neil Garbe, gave council two options. First, the current federal and provincial enforcement model, which legislates cannabis under the existing Smoke Free Ontario Act, permitting both cigarettes and cannabis smoking and vaping in public areas including parks away from playgrounds and on sidewalks.
The second option is to prohibit cannabis in all Smoke Free Ontario Act locations and in additional locations through a system of fines, as the City of Markham did two days previously in their own special council meeting.
Councillors were primarily concerned about enforcement: who would be enforcing it, the amount of town resources it would take to cover the enforcement, as well as how to ensure that medicinal users could still exercise their rights and freedoms, became sticking points.
“If we can’t implement it and the police aren’t able to respond because they have more serious emergencies to address, then how do we deal with it?” inquired councillor Vito Spatafora.
Garbe explained that, under the new bylaw, individuals caught smoking in public would be considered non-emergency. One would call a general number and ask for enforcement, much like implementing a noise complaint. Another challenge Garbe’s team identified was the cost of educating, training and hiring new bylaw officers. Under the provincial legislation, municipalities will receive $10,000 every year for the first two years.
In the end, council voted the more restrictive bylaw through but with some hesitation.
“Is this bylaw going to just merely pay lip service to us enforcing what needs to be enforced?” said councillor Karen Cilevitz. “That will only be played out as time moves on.”
However, although every councillor believed that cannabis use should be limited to private residences, several pointed out that more public input would be needed.
“I think we do need to provide more clarity to both sides of this debate as to what’s acceptable and not acceptable,” said councillor David West. “I’m under no illusion that this is a perfect solution.”
I’m under no illusion that this is a perfect solution.”
Richmond Hill CAO Neil Garbe