Richmond's public smoking crackdown could net you a $1,000 fine

With federal legislation to legalize recreational marijuna expected to be in place within months, Richmond city council has set some new ground rules around smoking in public.

New regulations approved by city council this week will further limit smoking and vaping in public places and on city-owned land.

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According to the city, “smoking” will include all vapour products and marijuana, along with cigarettes.

Under the new rules, which take effect May 1, smoking will be banned on school grounds and in public parks.

Smoking of any kind will also be banned within nine metres of transit shelters, transit signs, patios, doors, windows and air intakes. That’s an increase from the six-metre exclusion zone that was already in place.

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The city says the regulations are based on recommendations of health authorities to “improve the current level of public health protection in the community,” and to reduce the risk of fires.

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Cannabis activist Dana Larsen says the rules appear to be directed specifically at marijuana smokers.

“This isn’t about tobacco at all. Richmond has been very hostile towards cannabis legalization, they’ve looked at other bylaws to ban dispensaries and cannabis sales in general,” he said.

Larsen argued that with the new rules in place, pot smokers have been left with almost nowhere to go.

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“If we don’t allow cannabis users to have safe indoors spaces where they can go and gather socially and use cannabis like alcohol users have, then we will go outdoors and we’ll be doing it in the parks, on beaches, in alleys and other places.”

That could get expensive. People caught breaking the rules will face a $150 fine for the first offence, with a steep hike to $500 for the second offence and $1,000 for a third offence.

The City of Richmond has taken one of the toughest stances in B.C. on pot legalization, with Mayor Malcolm Brodie initially saying he didn’t want to see cannabis being sold within the city.

Richmond city council also wrote a letter to the federal and provincial governments last year calling on them to delay the rollout of legal pot.

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Since then, Brodie has acknowledged that legalization is inevitable, but that Richmond would instead use its authority to firmly regulate it.

“We want to have close control of the situation, have products sold under controlled circumstances in areas that are controlled,” he told Global News in December.

“I can tell you that the approach taken by certain cities is not going to be acceptable as far as Richmond is concerned.”

Places where smoking will be banned in Richmond, B.C., as of May 1, 2018:

  • Beaches
  • Trails
  • Playgrounds
  • Playing fields
  • Golf courses
  • Docks
  • Piers
  • Heritage sites
  • Public recreation centres
  • Arenas
  • Swimming pools
  • City Hall Plaza
  • Any other city property open to the public
  • Within nine metres of transit shelters, transit signs, patios, doors, windows and air intakes

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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