Public marijuana smoking is a controversial issue even in states where marijuana is legal, Stateline reports. Duluth, Minn., is considering an ordinance that would ban marijuana consumption in public parks. While existing tobacco rules already prohibit indoor smoking in most places, Minnesota law allows smoking in most public outdoor spaces, unless specifically banned by the local government. The debate over public consumption has grown since 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult-use marijuana but with widely varying regulations. Most states that have legalized marijuana forbid public consumption. In three states, Connecticut, Minnesota and Rhode Island, consumption rules are largely left to local officials. In New York, marijuana is legal to light up in most places unless specifically banned.
Now, some of the states that ban public consumption, including Nevada and New Mexico, are beginning to sanction marijuana consumption lounges. Those establishments offer consumers a place to smoke legally outside their homes. Lawmakers frequently cite public safety as a reason for regulating where people can consume marijuana. Another major driver is a general distaste for the pungent odor of pot smoke. In Duluth, council members are expected to vote on the marijuana ban in parks on Aug. 14. If enacted, the ban would allow police to charge violators with a petty misdemeanor and a fine of up to $300. Some advocates fear such bans could disproportionately harm people of color and those with lower incomes, a major rationale for decriminalizing marijuana in the first place. While white and Black Americans generally consume marijuana at similar rates, African Americans are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for possession.