St. Paul is banning smoking in certain outdoor places, joining several cities responding to the state's recent legalization of recreational cannabis.
A split City Council voted 4-3 on Wednesday to restrict smoking in city parks and within 25 feet of public buildings and workplaces.
The law, which will take effect in 30 days, allows property owners and the city's Parks and Recreation director to establish designated smoking areas marked by a sign. Exceptions will be made for cultural ceremonies involving tobacco.
Other states that have legalized marijuana generally do not permit public use of the substance. But Minnesota's law largely leaves that decision up to local governments.
St. Paul's proposed policy has drawn feedback over the past month from dozens of residents with mixed views.
Supporters of the regulation emphasized the negative health impacts of secondhand smoke. Others said cannabis smoke and litter would detract from their park-going experiences.
"I think it's important because it defines where people can't smoke and where people can smoke," said Council Member Chris Tolbert, who sponsored the ordinance. "I think that's a distinction that the policymakers should make, and not leave that to the conflicts that could happen in our shared public spaces."
Opponents said the ordinance defies the intent of the state law, which will send money to communities where marijuana crimes have been disproportionately enforced. They also argue the law puts at a disadvantage renters who don't have private backyards for smoking.
Council Members Russel Balenger, Mitra Jalali and Nelsie Yang voted against the ordinance.
"I understand that people have a desire to address public health concerns," Jalali said. "I maintain our existing city regulations achieve that, and this expands to create significant enforcement concerns that I don't think are justifiable."
The council added language in recent weeks to encourage voluntary compliance and possibly allow administrative citations to be issued for future violations. St. Paul's charter does not currently allow the city to impose such fines, and previous attempts to change it — most recently in 2021 — have failed.
Kamal Baker, press secretary for Mayor Melvin Carter, said in a statement that Carter "appreciates the City Council revising the ordinance based on community feedback and looks forward to working with council members and the St. Paul Police Department to ensure that this policy is equitably administered."