Pubdate: Thu, 08 Mar 2018
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2018 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Ingrid Peritz
Page: A4


Like many civic leaders across Canada, councillors in the town of
Hampstead, Que., were worried about the idea of people smoking
marijuana on the street once the drug became legal. So they drew up a
tough bylaw - and it's set to become the most restrictive anti-smoking
measure in the country.

In a move that experts predict will motivate other Canadian
municipalities, the town of 7,100 has adopted a draft bylaw that would
ban smoking everywhere in public, including streets and sidewalks.

The catalyst for the law was Ottawa's plan to legalize marijuana,
which is expected to come into force this year. But because the
restrictions extend to all forms of smoking, they would have the
collateral effect of ushering in the most far-reaching smoking ban in

"This is a Canadian first. It's the first municipality to ban smoking
on roads and sidewalks," says Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at
the Canadian Cancer Society. "I expect other municipalities to follow
suit. The legalization of marijuana is going to be a prompt for
municipalities to consider this issue, because now, not only will they
have cigarettes on the sidewalk but marijuana cigarettes, which have
second-hand smoke as well."

Hampstead, a well-to-do bedroom community that borders on the city of
Montreal, unanimously adopted the draft bylaw this month. Council will
probably vote on the final version in April and Mayor William
Steinberg expects it to pass.

Some critics predict the law will face a court challenge and be
difficult to enforce. However, Mr. Steinberg said the town felt
compelled to act and didn't want to wait for the federal cannabis law
to come into force.

"People can do whatever they want in their homes, they can do it in
their front yards or backyards if they wish to. It's their private
property," Mr. Steinberg, a four-term mayor, said on Wednesday. "But
in the public domain, no. We believe in individual freedoms, but
individual freedoms have limits."

The city is acting on its legal powers to control the environment and
public nuisances, Mr. Steinberg said.

"Once pot is legalized, if older teenagers and young adults are going
around and smoking pot all over the place, it's a very bad example.
And for that matter, smoking cigarettes is a bad example, too, except
that you see a lot less of it," Mr. Steinberg said. "I think you'll
have a lot more people smoking joints than you'll see people smoking
cigarettes once marijuana is legalized. And I don't want to see that
in public in our town."

Ontario, for example, restricts the use of recreational cannabis to
private residences.

"For a majority of provinces, marijuana is banned where smoking is
banned, and that leaves a lot of outdoor areas," Mr. Cunningham said.
"Municipalities are well-placed to respond to community concerns, and
there are many people who don't want to be exposed to second-hand
smoke of any kind."

The Hampstead initiative is meeting with pushback from surprising
quarters. A non-smokers' rights group says it goes too far.

Anti-tobacco organizations spent years fighting to get people not to
smoke indoors. With an estimated 5.2 million daily or occasional
smokers in Canada, it's not fair to simply ban them from smoking
outdoors, too, says Francois Damphousse, Quebec director of the
Non-Smokers' Rights Association.

"It's very difficult, especially since people are addicted to nicotine
and need a fix," he said. "We fought to protect people indoors and
asked them to go outdoors, and now we're saying we're banning smoking

Blair Longley, Leader of the Marijuana Party, said the multiplication
of provincial and municipal laws targeting cannabis will end up
increasing fines and penalties for users and, paradoxically, subject
them to more legal problems than they currently have.

Penalties under Hampstead's bylaw would be between $100 and $300 for a
first infraction and up to $600 for subsequent violations.
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