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Should pot be banned from public spaces?

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Legal Marijuana – With the expected legalization of recreational marijuana coming this summer across Canada, many questions still need to be answered, especially on the Provincial and Municipal levels. There are concerns about several issues – and one of the most controversial being where it will be allowed to be smoked.

Quebec’s revamped Tobacco Control Act came into full effect in November of 2016. It was enacted with the purpose to help dissuade youth from starting to smoke, as well as inspiring existing smokers to quit – but it was mostly introduced to protect the public from the dangers associated with breathing in second-hand tobacco smoke. When the province revealed its proposes Marijuana Legislation last November, it applied the same restrictions – but now, with the pungent smell and effects of pot on the horizon, it is an issue the province might need to consider revisiting and carefully addressing.

There are many who would have smoking pot banned from every public place and space – and others who would at least like to see it allowed in designated smoking areas. There are also those, albeit much fewer, who would see the smoking of pot allowed just about anywhere.

Responsible users of pot, including those who use it for medicinal purposes, appear to be more prone in taking measures to insure their smoke does not bother anyone in public areas. They are often seen walking a good distance away or crossing the street away from other people. Then there are those who simply light up a joint or pipe wherever they see fit, with no real concern for others – and laws are needed where common sense does not prevail.

If Quebec’s tobacco laws remain the same for the smoking of marijuana – it is sure to please some and upset others. But the law doesn’t end there.

Just recently, Hampstead’s City Council tabled a bill banning the smoking of tobacco on all of the municipality’s streets, sidewalks and public parks – because of concerns of the dangers of inhaling second-hand smoke. If it passes, it could be the first municipality in Canada to enact a complete ban on smoking in public. Residents of Hampstead, including any visitors would still be able to smoke on their property, as well as in their homes or cars – as long there are no children inside.

It appears to be a good initiative and well-received by many, and the laws could apply to the smoking of pot as well – but there are also concerns it might end up doing more harm than good.

François Damphousse of the NRSA (Non-Smokers Rights Association) – a voluntary, non-profit health organization with a mission ‘to promote public health by eliminating illness and death caused by tobacco, including second-hand smoke’, was cited in a recent Montreal Gazette report as saying, “As a health group, we’ve worked for decades to try and control tobacco use inside public areas and in the workplace. We want people to smoke outside, not inside…. this kind of initiative (Hampstead’s) results in people not having any place to smoke. It will create pressure on people to remain indoors and smoke more indoors. They won’t just contaminate their own residence, but create problems for their neighbours.”

Their insight gives one pause for thought, especially coming from a group working for non-smoker’s rights. It also supports an idea gaining momentum on social media of creating ‘designated smoking areas’ around public spaces, away from where the smoke will not affect anyone (but the smokers themselves) and would apply to smoking pot as well.

Quebec’s Tobacco Control Act is considered strict by most and here are parts of it more relative to this article – to read the full act go to: http://legisquebec.gouv.qc.ca/en/showdoc/cs/L-6.2

– Smoking outdoors is allowed, but there are exceptions: It is forbidden to smoke in outdoor play areas such as wading pools, skate parks or on sports fields, outdoor skating rinks and pools. It is not allowed within nine metres of a children’s playground – with some municipalities not allowing it at all in parks.

– You can smoke in your own home but if you rent an apartment, your lease or the building rules may not allow smoking and it is forbidden in the common areas. This rule also applies to condos.

– Smoking is not allowed within nine metres of the door to a public place where smoking is forbidden – like in office buildings, bars, restaurants, hospitals, schools, day-care centres and concert halls. This rule also applies near the windows and air-intake ducts.

– Smoking shelters are allowed outside some public places – but they must be at least nine metres away from areas where it is prohibited and can never be placed on the grounds of schools, health and social services centres, day-care centres or stores that sell tobacco products.

What is your opinion on this? Should smoking pot be banned from all public spaces, as Hampstead proposes – or does the idea of allowing it in designated smoking areas make more sense to you?

Bonnie Wurst – info@mtltimes.ca

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