Sep 21, 2023 - News

St. Paul set to vote on new rules restricting marijuana use in public places

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

St. Paul could soon join a growing number of cities adopting new rules meant to curtail smoking weed in public places in light of the state's new legal marijuana law.

The big picture: The state law, which took effect Aug. 1, effectively authorized smoking and vaping in many outdoor spaces, leaving it up to local governments to decide whether to restrict or ban it in public areas.

  • As a result, several cities, including Duluth, Lakeville, and New Hope, have passed ordinances restricting public smoking and vaping of the substance.

Zoom in: St. Paul's ordinance, which is expected to come up for a final vote as soon as next Wednesday, bans smoking in city parks and within 25 feet of public buildings and workplaces.

Yes, but: It allows building owners and the director of the Department of Parks to designate smoking areas that are "clearly marked with a sign."

  • Exceptions will also be made for cultural ceremonies involving tobacco.

The latest: A vote on the measure initially planned for Wednesday was delayed due to a technical amendment recommended by the city attorney's office.

Catch up fast: The original draft of the ordinance sought to ban the consumption of cannabis in all city-controlled public areas, including in parks and on sidewalks.

  • The proposal was scaled back after critics, including Council Member Mitra Jalali, argued that the approach would unfairly impact renters who don't have private backyards to smoke in.
  • Language related to enforcement was also softened: People violating the rules will first be asked to comply voluntarily. If they don't stop, they could face an administrative citation and a fine.

The other side: Anti-smoking advocates, along with some members of the general public, have pushed for a broader ban, arguing that second-hand smoke is a health concern and an annoyance.

Of note: While earlier versions of the ordinance called out cannabis specifically, the latest proposal addresses smoking in general.

What we're watching: A Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board committee was set to discuss the issue Wednesday night, per a spokesperson. Some state lawmakers, meanwhile, want the Legislature to tighten the rules for everyone next year.

  • "My hope would be that this is one of the things that's on the list for folks to fix," GOP Sen. Jordan Rasmussen told MinnPost this summer.

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