Red Deer city council gave first reading to an amended bylaw that if passed, would ban the consumption of recreational cannabis in public.

The one change that council endorsed on Monday night was proposed by Coun. Vesna Higham, who called for a $500 fine for a second offence under a revised Smoke Free Bylaw, and a penalty between $500 and $2,500 for third and subsequent offences.

As the bylaw was initially presented, the penalty for a first offence would have been $200, and between $200 and $2,500 for second offences and beyond, with the amount decided by a provincial court judge.

No change was made to the fine for a first offence.

Higham said the main intent behind her amendment was to keep second contraventions of the bylaw out of the busy court system.

Second and third readings of the bylaw are scheduled for Sept. 4. A public hearing is not required.

On Monday, council also passed two of Higham’s other motions.

The first directed administration to look into banning indoor pot smoking from multi-family residences comprised of three or more units.

Both Health Canada and Alberta Health Services recommend that municipalities do so because of the health risks associated with second-hand smoke in those environments.

Doing nothing, Higham said, would mean those residents would have no one to appeal to but condo boards and landlords.

“It leaves our citizens vulnerable to the … goodwill of landlords to strictly enforce if that building is no smoking,” she said. “What recourse do they have if we don’t legislate it.”

Higham said a ban on indoor cannabis smoking in multi-unit dwellings would still allow marijuana users to smoke outside.

Her last motion directed city staff to explore amendments that would prohibit the smoking and vaping of medical cannabis in public.

As written, the proposed bylaw includes an exemption for those who hold a “green card” and medical users would follow tobacco rules instead.

In a letter to council from an AHS policy analyst, those who need to consume medical cannabis in public away from home can use oils instead.

“I’m not impacted if you want to ingest a capsule, that doesn’t affect me but when you start smoking next to me in a public place or wherever, that has a negative impact,” said Higham.

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