B.C. government looks into allowing cannabis-consumption spaces

The B.C. government is looking into the possibility of cannabis consumption spaces in the province, after a public survey found most who use it are in favour. Monika Gul has the details.

The B.C. government is looking into if cannabis-consumption spaces should be allowed in the province, and how they should be regulated.

Several years after cannabis was legalized in Canada, the B.C. Ministry of Public Safety is exploring the idea of people being allowed to use the legal drug in select areas.

The spaces could include businesses and establishments that sell cannabis and that can be used on-site. This could also lead to the creation of cannabis cafés or lounges.

Other examples include special events, cannabis drinks served at restaurants, and sales and use at places like music or comedy venues.

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British Columbians were invited to fill out a survey by the Ministry of Public Safety, which the ministry explains will help assess the level of public support and interest in the spaces, and look into public health and safety.

Over 16,000 people answered questions online, over the phone, and through written submissions that were then sent to the government for review.

“Health and safety are our utmost priorities as we consider how provincial cannabis policies could evolve,” Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth said in a statement.

“This report provides valuable insights into people in B.C.’s perspectives on cannabis and will help guide our work to support a strong, diverse and safe legal cannabis sector across the Province,” he added.

British Columbians respond

In the survey, people were asked if the spaces should be allowed and if they would go to them.

An exciting prospect for some, over 61 per cent of phone respondents supported the creation of the spaces.

However, only 34 per cent of people online were in favour.

“Most people who use cannabis were in support of consumption spaces, as were cannabis retailers, producers, and industry associations who provided written submissions. In contrast, consumption spaces were generally not supported by people who do not use cannabis and from some public health and safety,” the report said.

If cannabis was allowed at some events, non-users said they would likely avoid the events and businesses that offered the legal drug.

“Exploring the feasibility of cannabis-consumption spaces is another way B.C. is working to support the success of the industry,” Brittny Anderson, the parliamentary secretary for tourism said.

“With the recent introduction of a licence for farm-gate sales, understanding public opinion on cannabis-related hospitality and agri-tourism activities is a practical next step. The feedback in this report will play an important role in the development of provincial policies,” Anderson added.

Decreasing stigma, increasing tourism

The owners of a Vancouver cannabis store, Village Bloomery, say having consumption-spaces could have a lot of benefits.

“I think we’re talking about fairness here, and we’re talking about putting stigmas aside, re-educating and understanding really what the substance is. Cannabis is used as a harm reduction agent for people who are addicted to alcohol and tobacco and opiates,” Jeremy Jacob with the shop explained.

Jacob says there are still a lot of stigmas related to the use of cannabis, and allowing it in spaces like lounges and cafes could help normalize the legal drug use.

“I think having consumption lounges would have a lot of benefits just for helping people who consume cannabis feel a bit more normal and included,” he said.

A cup of coffee with a marihuana leaf

The B.C. government says it is looking into the legalization of cannabis-consumption spaces. (Unsplash)

Andrea Dobbs with the Bloomery says the concept of the spaces isn’t just about having an additional nightlife outlet and could reach a wide audience of people.

“I think the concept of consumption space needs to be opened up because I think people are thinking nightclubs, bars, and that might be part of that picture. But there are…coffee shops, there are spas where you can get infused massages,” she said.

“There are many, many ideas and/or variations around how you could do this.”

Jacob echoes this concept, adding that it could positively impact the tourism industry across the province.

“There’s a huge tourist industry in B.C. whether it’s supported by consumption spaces are not, people from around the world come here to experience our cannabis culture. And it would be a really great addition to
that,” he said.

“Our society is really reeling in a lot of ways economically, and if something was done to boost that from a tourism perspective you know, namely, let’s encourage safe cannabis consumption sites for tourists to feel safe. I mean, this could only be a good thing.”

The province adds that it is not considering new restrictions on cannabis use in public spaces, and the results will help the government assess the possible launch of the sites.

With files from Liza Yuzda

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