Politics and Government

Duluth city councilors to introduce ban on smoking marijuana in public parks

A man smokes a marijuana joint at a party celebrating weed in Seattle.
The Minnesota law that legalizes smoking marijuana on Aug. 1 leaves it up to cities to decide whether to allow it in public places.
Elaine Thompson | AP Photo 2019

Updated: July 20, 10:25 a.m. | Posted: July 19, 12:09 p.m.

Three Duluth city councilors announced Wednesday they plan to introduce an ordinance to ban smoking marijuana in public parks and some other public outdoor spaces, including the popular Lakewalk pedestrian and bike path along the Lake Superior shoreline.

The proposed ordinance is based on the city’s existing tobacco policy, which bans smoking in some city parks, on the Lakewalk, and close to medical facilities and public transit stations. But the proposal would go further by banning the smoking of marijuana in all city parks.

People can legally use cannabis in Minnesota beginning on Aug. 1. The state law authorizing it allows the use of marijuana in public, unless explicitly banned by cities.

“This ordinance reflects our commitment to strike a balance between personal freedoms and safeguarding the interests of non-smokers, families and children from secondhand marijuana smoke,” said Duluth City Council member Arik Forsman, lead author of the ordinance.

Several other cities in Minnesota — including Alexandria and Detroit Lakes — are considering adopting similar ordinances, according to the League of Minnesota Cities.

Forsman said city officials in Duluth were taken by surprise that the state law legalizing cannabis left it up to cities to decide whether to ban its use in public spaces.

“I will be honest, we assumed that this was covered by the state. And so when we found out last week that it wasn’t, that was an eye-opener,” said Forsman.

He said the city has already received emails from the public expressing concern about people smoking marijuana on Park Point. He said the main concern driving the ordinance is its use in city parks.

“So obviously, if you’re taking your children to a playground, you don’t want to have to think about the fact that somebody could potentially legally be lighting up right next to you,” he said.

Duluth City Council members Roz Randorf and Terese Tomanek plan to introduce the ordinance along with Forsman at a city council meeting on July 24. If the full city council passes the ordinance at the following meeting on Aug. 14, it would go into effect a month later.  

Correction (July 20, 2023): A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the proposed ordinance would ban smoking marijuana on streets and sidewalks, and in public parking ramps. The story has been updated.

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