Halifax council votes to restrict smoking -- of anything -- in public places
Published Tuesday, July 17, 2018 9:25PM ADT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 18, 2018 8:03AM ADT
Halifax Regional Council has voted through a bylaw cracking down on smoking both tobacco and marijuana in public, but not without a spirited debate.
It's a small shift in the bylaws, but it’s meant to make a big difference.
Council confirmed that there is no smoking -- of anything -- in public places without express permission.
The debate started by looking at what will happen when cannabis is legalized.
“I think it just makes sense to treat cannabis like alcohol under the law,” said District 14 Coun. Lisa Blackburn. “I don't think this is demonizing cannabis at all. Under the law, you can't walk down the sidewalk on Quinpool Road taking a swig from a wine bottle. So it just makes sense that you can't smoke weed.”
Rule breakers could face a fine from $25 to $1,000.
But bylaw officers are more likely to give offenders a warning -- something some councillors didn't see the point of.
“The enforcement folks are all of a sudden going to be giving warnings, and keeping track of how many warnings they got, and when it comes from a warning to a fine,” said District 13 Coun. Matt Whitman. “It seems like a lot of money to almost have the illusion of enforcement.”
Whitman voted against the bylaw, as did District 12 Coun. Richard Zurawski.
“I don't agree with some of the councillors’ contention that you start really hard and then you dial back afterwards,” Zurawski said. “We've got tons and tons of laws out there that remain on the books that are prohibitive and are enforced.”
The bylaw passed by a vote of 13 to 3.
Many mentioned that the point isn't to “catch” everyone, but to have the options if they need them.
“You're not going to have 100 per cent compliance,” said District 5 Coun. Sam Austin. “They're there to deal with the nuisances that do crop up. So the reoccurring issue, the bylaws on the books and you can deal with that.”
Staff said this represents a shift in thinking for the public to understand that most places will be smoke free.
Halifax Chief Administrative Officer Jacques Dube says the municipality will need about 1,000 new smoking permitted signs to put up.
He says they hope to have that all taken care of by the end of September.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Emily Baron Cadloff.