News

Revised regulations include recreational marijuana

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

SIMCOE - 

Local health officials have toned down a proposed bylaw governing outdoor smoking in Norfolk County.

The original bylaw came to Norfolk council last spring. The bylaw contained proposals for regulating smoking in Norfolk parks, beaches and other public areas.

Norfolk council put the brakes on after some councillors complained that the bylaw, in places, was heavy-handed.

At a meeting in May, Windham Coun. Jim Oliver pointed out that Norfolk County remains a major tobacco-producing area of the province. Oliver added no municipality in Ontario had such severe penalties for smoking in forbidden areas as proposed in the draft bylaw.

The bylaw was referred to Haldimand-Norfolk’s health and social services advisory committee for further review. Norfolk council gets a look at their handiwork at its regular meeting Tuesday.

The revised bylaw greatly reduces fines for violations. The original bylaw suggested a maximum fine of $10,000. The revised bylaw reduces this to $250.

The original bylaw empowered health officials to ban scofflaws from municipal parks and recreational properties for a year or more. The revised bylaw says “a progressive enforcement approach is recommended, including education and warnings before charges are laid.”

The original bylaw empowered officials to enforce the bylaw at area beaches to a distance of 20 metres into the water. The original bylaw also granted this authority on public and private waterfronts.

The revised bylaw curbs enforcement on private beaches. The bylaw – if approved – would apply at beaches owned or leased by the municipality, the province or the federal government. Enforcement at private beaches would not take place unless requested by the owner in writing.

A provision related to municipal golf courses has been dropped because Norfolk does not own or manage these facilities.

The health unit has taken advantage of the delay to incorporate prohibitions on marijuana. Come July, the Trudeau government intends to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.

“Smoke or smoking,” the revised bylaw says, “includes the carrying of a lighted cigar or cigarette, pipe, and is not limited to tobacco but also includes shisha (hookah pipe), cannabis, vaping or any other lighted material.”

In terms of public buildings, lighting up within nine metres of an entrance would be forbidden.

The health unit is concerned about smoking in public spaces because studies show second-hand smoke poses a health risk to non-smokers.

“The implementation of a smoke-free outdoor spaces bylaw for Norfolk County will ensure equitable protection for residents and visitors from exposure to second-hand smoke,” Michelle Lyne, a community health program manager with the local health unit, says in her report.

Tuesday’s meeting will be held in the council chamber at Governor Simcoe Square starting at 3 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com