A chance to pass the cannabis public consumption bylaw will have to wait a bit longer.
At Ponoka’s town council meeting Sept. 24 — with Mayor Rick Bonnett not in attendance — it was determined the subject will be back in front of councillors on Oct. 9 after some consternation over just what to do about medicinal usage of cannabis in public.
Council requested regulation needs to be in place when usage becomes legal Oct. 17. This proposal would prohibit all public use of cannabis within town limits. However, there is one exception and that is for anyone that has a legally certified medical use document. Those individuals, upon presenting the correct documentation, could smoke anywhere that tobacco is currently allowed.
It was that exception that became a sticking point for some on council, leading to just two readings of the bylaw being passed. Approval to move forward with third reading was denied as no one was willing to make that motion.
CAO Albert Flootman explained the town’s lawyer advised against prohibiting medical use since the town could be at risk of a lawsuit since it would be operating outside its jurisdiction, since medical use is regulated by the federal government. He added that this bylaw is simply a stop-gap, as the issue is part of the Community Standards Bylaw consultation being done on Oct. 11 and will become part of that bylaw when it is approved later this year.
“So, on demand a person presents medical documentation. What does that look like? Is it a bonafide document?” Coun. Carla Prediger quizzed Flootman. He wasn’t able to state what the document actually is, but that the bylaw could include a specific definition regarding the document.
Meanwhile, Coun. Teri Underhill — leading the meeting as deputy mayor — felt the town should take a run at the exception.
“So, we have no autonomy because it’s federally regulated. We’ve been basically told by both levels of government that consumption is your problem, but here’s an exception,” she noted.
“I say, let’s try the constitutional challenge. I have serious concerns about somebody being able to smoke in public.”
Coun. Kevin Ferguson agreed for an outright ban, noting no one seems to have heard any issues of medicinal smoking of pot in town up to now.
Meanwhile, Nelson was curious how this bylaw would be enforced plus what that would cost the town.
Underhill suggests the RCMP would be doing that, and she believes the majority of town residents feel a ban is necessary.
“This is something we have to deal with, it’s coming down very quickly. Honestly, we are doing it to get this in place before Oct. 17,” she added.
“Other municipalities are doing this and have done more work than we’ve been able to do at this time, but I think moving forward to reassure our citizens, we need something in place and then revise and change as things roll out.”
Anyone found contravening the bylaw would be issued a municipal ticket worth a fine of $100. If that isn’t paid within the time limit, then a violation ticket of $250 would be issued and the person would need to fight it in court.