KENTVILLE, NS - When it comes to its Smoke-Free Places Bylaw, the Town of Kentville wants to be prepared for the upcoming legalization of recreational cannabis.
Nova Scotia’s new Cannabis Control Act, introduced April 3 by Justice Minister Mark Furey, establishes the province’s legislative framework for recreational cannabis legalization. The proposed framework is still subject to approval by the House of Assembly and many provincial laws will not come into effect until federal legislation is proclaimed.
The Cannabis Control Act enacts new legislation and amends seven pieces of existing legislation, including the Smoke-Free Places Act. Municipalities may pass bylaws that put additional restrictions in place.
Kentville Mayor Sandra Snow said Chief Julia Cecchetto of the Kentville Police Service is currently reviewing the town’s Smoke-Free Public Places Bylaw, in anticipation of the legalization of recreational cannabis, currently slated for July 1. Snow said the town council would review proposed amendments at the May council advisory committee meeting. One proposed change is that fines could increase to as much as $5,000.
“Basically, people will not be smoking cannabis in downtown Kentville,” Snow said.
The town’s current bylaw presumes that the substance being smoked is tobacco but Snow said council wants to include cannabis terminology.
She said the town’s current bylaw is more stringent than provincial smoke-free places legislation. However, where the bylaw differs, the town would be on the hook for the cost of prosecution. If the bylaw is in line with provincial legislation, the Crown covers prosecution costs.
“This is where the big difference is and municipalities really have to look at this. Do they have room in their budgets to prosecute all of these potential things?” Snow said.
She is pleased that the province has included trails with recreational facilities under proposed amendments to the provincial Smoke-Free Places Act. She said the town has an abundance of trails and these areas were never protected under the provincial legislation. Kentville wants these areas protected since this is an area where families congregate.
“That was always, as far as Kentville was concerned, something that was missing,” Snow said.
Under the town’s current smoke-free bylaw, fines range from $50 to $200 for a first offence and between $100 and $300 for a second or subsequent offence. Snow said it doesn’t make sense from a financial perspective to pay $1,000 to prosecute a $200 ticket. With a potential fine of $5,000, it would make it fiscal sense.
Recently, there was a request from the smoking population in downtown Kentville for the town to relax its rules and use the provincial act. The town’s bylaw makes all property owned by or leased to the Town of Kentville smoke-free, including streets, sidewalks and parks. The provincial act allows smoking on public property such as streets and sidewalks.
As the council was looking at relaxing the bylaw over the last few months before the proposed amendments were defeated, it included cannabis terminology.