St. Paul City Council passes pot and tobacco smoking ban for parks

St. Paul City Council members narrowly passed an ordinance on Wednesday banning the use of marijuana and tobacco in parks and near public buildings.

The new ordinance was passed on a 4-3 vote on Wednesday.

St. Paul joins a number of cities that have passed similar ordinances after the state legalized cannabis in August. It was initially believed that the state law would ban the use of cannabis products in public spaces. But, when leaders learned that wasn't the case, many cities rushed to pass their own ordinance in July.

In St. Paul, during the course of crafting the law, city leaders also learned that smoking tobacco wasn't banned under the city code. So, the ordinance moved forward to ban both.

Initial proposals of the bill would have banned smoking in any city-owned space. However, the final language only bans smoking pot and tobacco products in city parks and in close proximity to entrances and windows for public buildings or places of employment.

The council also lowered the penalty if someone violates the law, dropping it from a petty misdemeanor to an administrative citation. However, the first course of action for a violator will be a warning before a citation is issued.

There are exceptions to the law, like smoking within designated smoking areas or using tobacco for a Native American cultural practice.