With the fast-approaching date for the legalization of cannabis in Canada, the city of Montreal released its marijuana action plan Wednesday morning.
Despite much pressure from the opposition, Montreal has left the door open to smoking in public spaces.
Marijuana will be banned in places where tobacco smoking is already prohibited, such as inside public buildings and on public transportation, but the city has stopped short of banning consumption in parks or on sidewalks.
For some, the ban doesn’t go far enough.
WATCH: Oppositon Counc. Lionel Perez critical of Montreal’s marijuana action plan
Opposition Coun. Lionel Perez was critical of Mayor Valérie Plante’s proposal.
“With one week to go before the legalization of marijuana, we see that there is no plan,” he said. “Accordingly in a number of our boroughs we are in fact going to be putting in place certain restrictions.”
Plante countered the decision is in line with provincial guidelines and was made after a lengthy reflection and consultations with various experts.
In a written statement, Dr. Mylène Drouin, the regional director for santé publique de Montréal explained that following the provincial framework made sense from a public health standpoint.
“Banning smoking from all outdoor areas would drive consumers to private indoor locations where the concentration of second-hand smoke could have adverse effects on the health of the occupants,” she said.
The city argued that its action plan takes into consideration that 60 per cent of its population is made up of renters and it sought to treat everyone equitably.
“Our decision to apply the current provincial legal framework was based on considerations that are geared towards public safety and that correspond to the reality and density of Montreal’s population,” Plante said.
“The population of smokers is mostly 18-25 years old who wouldn’t have a legal space where they can smoke” she said, adding that a ban in all public spaces would raise issues of equality and stigmatization.
Plante urged other boroughs to follow suit.
“I’m not going to hide that I’m hoping that the whole city of Montreal can have the same rules,” she said.
“It would definitely make it easier for everyone, whether you’re a tourist or somebody living in Montreal and that is why I would encourage all my colleagues to have a more open approach.”
But for Perez, the fight is far from over.
He says a ban in public parks is a minimum and he is planning to file a motion in his borough of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce at the next council meeting.
Perez also criticized the city’s consultations with expert committees saying they were held behind closed doors and didn’t involve key players such as Montreal police.
Montreal police must be fit for duty
While both the RCMP and Toronto police forces are reportedly planning on strictly controlling their members’ use of cannabis by prohibiting any pot smoking within 28 days of a shift, that won’t be the case in Montreal.
“We have our own thing,” Insp. André Durocher said.
Under the plan, Montreal police officers will be allowed to smoke marijuana during their time off. They must, however, show up to work “fit for duty.”
“If for example one of your colleagues notices that they’re unfit for duty you know because they seem impaired, they seem dizzy, there’s something wrong,” Durocher said.
“That’s how we’re going to go about it.”
Durocher said the city’s marijuana policy was created “according to our culture, our organization and what we think is best.” He said the policy is the best way to ensure “the safety of our officers and of our population.”
— With files from Global’s Gloria Henriquez, Kalina Laframboise and The Canadian Press
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