A discussion Monday about the public use of cannabis and vaping products turned into an extended conversation about other legal vices, Osoyoos Council dragging smoking and alcohol concerns into the mix.
At Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting, Town staff were looking for direction on whether local bylaws should be amended to reference cannabis and vaping in public now that the use of marijuana for recreational purposes is legal in Canada.
That got several councillors openly pondering how tobacco and alcohol might play in the conversation.
“If we’re going to start adding restrictions with regard to cannabis use in the public, I think we’re distracting away from the real issue, which would be more control over smoking tobacco in our community,” said Coun. CJ Rhodes.
He noted tobacco products are “a harmful product,” have “zero health benefits” and add significant cost to our health care responsibility.
There’s also a “debris aspect” involved with public smoking, he added.
He encouraged Council to give as much weight to tobacco prohibition as it might give to marijuana, which, he noted, did have some positive health benefits.
Coun. Brian Harvey asked about the relationship between marijuana and alcohol.
“Marijuana is an intoxicating product and it’s more akin to alcohol to me than tobacco in that regard, especially when edible products and things of that nature come into the marketplace,” he said.
“I think we need to look at that aspect of our bylaw as well — where is alcohol limited and why and we should make sure that intersection is met.”
Although provincial law establishes for the most part where cannabis cannot be consumed in public, Town staff were looking to add additional local weight to enforcement.
“The Province also gives local and indigenous government the authority to set additional restriction on public use of non-medical cannabis under their powers to establish bylaws,” Janette Van Vianen, the Town’s Director of Corporate Services, explained.
For example, she added, while provincial law might prohibit smoking marijuana in public parks, it was not clear about its use in adjacent parking lots.
“That’s where we kind of want to make some clarification so that people can’t just go from Gyro Park into the Gyro Park parking lot and start smoking whatever it is they wish to consume,” she said.
Council eventually passed a motion to direct Town staff to prepare an amendment to the Town’s Parks and Community Facilities Bylaw to reference smoking of cannabis and vaping in the definition of smoking and to prohibit smoking in public parking lots adjacent to parks.
But it wants more information — including how other municipalities are dealing with the issue — before it determines what to do about smoking — either tobacco or cannabis — on public streets.
“There is smoking on Main Street — people do go down the street smoking,” said Mayor Sue McKortoff. “I think we need to be a little more vigilant in managing that — smoking of any kind on Main Street — but I’m not sure whether that’s included in this or not.”
Added Coun. Bennett, “We have one bylaw person. Do we have the people to deal with something like this?”
Counc. defeated a motion to instruct staff to prepare an amendment to the Town’s Traffic Bylaw to prohibit smoking of cannabis in public parking lots and all sidewalks, instead asking for more information.
Meanwhile, an application to open a cannabis store in the Gateway Plaza — the fourth such request in Osoyoos — met little resistance Monday afternoon.
Council breezed through a 15-minute public hearing, hearing only from the applicant and a single resident — realtor Eileen McGinn — who indicated her support for the application because it is away from Main Street downtown.
“Gateway Plaza is a great location, off the main beat but still has the traffic and good security up there,” she said. “You’ve got the RCMP right across the street from them.”
Three other applications — all for locations in the downtown core — are in various stages of review, either at the municipal or provincial level.