Federal legalization of cannabis has put the provinces in the tough position of having to strike a fair balance between the public interest and personal freedom in a lot of important areas, such as public health, highway safety and education programs on smoking and drug use.
One clash that arose this week over provincial cannabis legislation concerns restricting cannabis use in public.
Justice Minister Mark Furey says government will revise the Smoke-free Places Act to include new restrictions for all types of smoking and to treat cannabis and tobacco in the same way. All smoking is already prohibited in indoor public spaces and workspaces and in some outdoor spaces, including school and daycare grounds and bar and restaurant patios. The amendments will ban outdoor smoking or vaping of cannabis or tobacco on or within 20 metres of playgrounds, publicly-owned sport and recreational events, public trails, provincial parks and beaches, except for within a rented campsite. Mr. Furey says this reflects survey results that support some outdoor public use — to be fair to renters living in smoke-free buildings — with restrictions to protect others from second-hand smoke.
But several health organizations want a broader or total public ban, in keeping with other provinces.
One tobacco-control expert noted at the law amendments committee Monday that six provinces are allowing no cannabis use in public places, essentially treating cannabis like open alcohol, while three others are banning use in areas frequented by children.
Mr. Furey opposes a total public prohibition, arguing that enforcing it would only tie up police forces, so the bill is proceeding without amendment. The bill permits municipalities to enact further restrictions. But HRM counsel John Traves made it clear the city isn’t keen to take on enforcement costs, either, and opposes a patchwork of restrictions.
One uniform provincial law to protect people from second-hand smoke does make sense. And since the province can’t anticipate every place where this hazard may arise, it should provide a means in the bill to add further restrictions, if needed, by way of regulation.
An editorial from the Halifax Chronicle Herald (distributed by The Canadian Press)