The medical officer of health with the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, Doctor Jim Chirico, is praising West Nipissing council for its proactive move on smoking.

Council has revised its bylaw to include cannabis and vaping and Chirico plans to showcase the bylaw to the other municipalities under its jurisdiction.

Chirico and staff from the health unit were invited to council this week to explain and clarify elements of the new cannabis regulations.

Before starting, Chirico commended council for its initiative for revising its bylaw and hoped other communities followed its lead.

One thing council wants is higher minimum fines for people who contravene the bylaw.

Right now under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, the minimum fine is $305.

The amount includes a fine for $250 with the remainder taking in a victim surcharge and court costs.

Council debated among itself at an earlier meeting setting fine rates.

At this week’s meeting the health unit told council it could set its own fines provided they were reasonable and if reasonable, they would likely receive approval from the Ontario Court of Justice.

Although the health unit acts as the enforcement agency for the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, the sheer size of the area it oversees makes it impossible to cover all matters involving complaints.

During 2018 the health unit investigated five complaints from West Nipissing.

It carried out 493 inspections and issued one charge and 28 warnings.

Under cannabis legislation a person can possess no more than 30 grams of the drug, the user has to be at least 19 and for home-growing purposes, no more than four plants can be grown in a community.