Duluth City Council votes to ban smoking marijuana in public parks

A man smokes a marijuana joint
The Duluth City Council on Monday voted to ban smoking marijuana in all city parks.
Elaine Thompson | AP file

The Duluth City Council has voted to ban smoking marijuana in all city parks, including the popular Lakewalk pedestrian path along Lake Superior, Bayfront Festival Park and Spirit Mountain.

The ordinance that passed Monday also bans vaping marijuana, and extends a ban on smoking tobacco to all city parks. It previously was only forbidden in select parks. Consuming cannabis in other forms, such as gummies, is still allowed.

Duluth is one of several cities around Minnesota to consider bans on smoking cannabis in parks and other public places, including Lakeville and Alexandria, Minn. The state law legalizing cannabis allows it in private residences, but left it up to cities to decide whether to ban its use in public spaces.

“I want to protect clean air for folks in our public spaces and our parks,” said Duluth City Council Vice President Roz Randorf. She co-sponsored the ordinance, which passed 8-1.

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“When you’re smoking in public and in parks and in buildings, we really have to think of those folks that are around us that could have health conditions, pre-existing conditions, our youth.”

Azrin Awal was the lone “no” vote on the council. She expressed concern about taking away the rights of people, especially those who live in multifamily housing where smoking is not allowed.

“We’ve heard constituents, that they’re worried about smoking taking place in sidewalks. But if they’re not able to go into a public facility, if they can’t smoke in their multifamily or public building, and they can’t go into a public park, what’s left is our sidewalks and streets ... where there’s more traffic,” she said at Monday’s meeting.

Several other cities have proposed or passed similar bans, including Lakeville and Alexandria.

The Duluth City Council tabled an amendment to reduce the maximum $300 fine for violating the ban, but appeared close to agreeing to a new fee structure.

Several council members suggested revisiting the issue in the next several months, in part to look at what action other cities take to address smoking in public.

“I believe this conversation needs to continue,” said Council President Janet Kennedy. “This is a dynamic topic that we’re going to have to revisit.”