St. Paul considers restrictions on cannabis use

St. Paul cannabis debate

St. Paul cannabis debate

Smoking at city-controlled public places in St. Paul would be banned if a new ordinance passes, which targets tobacco, hemp and cannabis use. It would prohibit smoking in all areas within the city’s boundaries that are owned, leased, managed, rented, contracted or otherwise controlled by the city.

Recreational marijuana became legal in Minnesota on Aug. 1.

“I think many of us welcomed the change and the decriminalization,” City Council President Amy Brendmoen said. “But one of our main roles on the City Council is balancing people’s personal liberties and then the fairness to the broader community.”

The ordinance would restrict smoking and vaping but the not use of other cannabis products. According to Brendmoen, the goal is to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke in public areas.

“We know that folks are a little bit concerned about making something legal and then making it illegal again,” she said. “We’ll continue to have a conversation about how it’s not the substance, it’s about the smoke.”

RELATED: With marijuana legalization nearing, some cities propose outdoor smoking ordinances

The Minnesota Medical Association, which represents doctors, submitted a letter of support for the ordinance to the City Council on Wednesday.

“What we know is marijuana smoke contains the same toxic chemicals tobacco smoke does,” said Dr. Laurel Ries, the organization’s president-elect. “What we know about marijuana smoke is it has been shown to cause lung cancer, it’s also been shown to cause heart disease and damage to blood vessels so strokes and heart attacks. And then there’s the short-term things, so asthma attacks for children or other lung problems who have vulnerable lungs.”

She also explained people who breathe in secondhand marijuana smoke can have detectable levels of THC in their blood.

“Minnesotans should be able to breathe clean in air in public spaces,” Ries said.

City Council Member Mitra Jalali, however, is criticizing the ordinance language.

“The language in particular that I have an issue with is ‘city-controlled public places,’” she said during a council meeting in mid-August. “It could extend to public right of ways, sidewalks.”

Jalali raised concerns it would specifically limit renters’ access to cannabis use.

A violation of the proposed law would be a petty misdemeanor.

“I think this is undermining the intent of the Legislature in wanting to legalize this substance so we can take a step forward on racial equity,” said Jalali.

The St. Paul Police Department provided this statement on the proposed ordinance to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS:

“We welcome an opportunity to work with city council to develop an ordinance that meets our city’s needs. We believe that we can all agree that there are public places where smoking, or the exposure to second hand smoke, should be limited or prohibited.

“The proposed ordinance language shared with SPPD extended these prohibited areas to almost all public spaces, including streets and sidewalks. It also failed to recognize that if this language, as written, became an ordinance there would be an expectation of enforcement, which we don’t believe our community would want our officers doing.”

St. Paul Police Department