Cannabis consumption spaces may be on the horizon in BC. In January 2023, The Ministry of Public Safety released a “What We Heard Report” – results of public engagement on cannabis consumption spaces in the province.
The public engagement consisted of a telephone survey of 730 randomly selected individuals and an online survey completed by 15,362 people. In addition to the survey, individuals, businesses and organizations were invited to provide written submissions.
Following are highlights of report:
61% of telephone respondents supported cannabis consumption spaces. Of those, 84% used cannabis and 48% did not.
Online respondents had stronger opinions. 94% of cannabis users supported spaces while 91% of non-users did not support spaces.
Written submissions were also polarized with most industry respondents expressing support and most public health and safety and local government expressing caution or opposition.
Respondents of both the telephone and online surveys were most concerned with increased cannabis-related impaired driving.
Co-location of cannabis and alcohol purchase and consumption was a major concern. 42% of telephone survey respondents supported co-location while 41% opposed. Most written responses, many from public health and safety organizations, opposed co-location.
Findings of the report reflected that support was largely dependent on whether respondents used cannabis.
Source: “What We Heard Report 2022, Cannabis Consumption Spaces Public Engagement”, Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, January 2023.
If the BC government does approve cannabis consumption spaces, it’s certain that the road to finalization will be bumpy one. Las Vegas serves as an example of difficulties, questions and opposition that can (and probably will) arise.
In early September 2022, Las Vegas city council voted 5-1 to allow cannabis consumption lounges in the city and regulations were finalized in March 2023. A required buffer zone between cannabis lounges is the most contentious regulation. A 1000-ft buffer is required. Industry advocates believe the rule will hamper the growth of cannabis tourism, though there is an option for applicants to request a waiver, which must be approved by council. Those opposed to the buffer fear that applicants may get stuck in long-term leases if final approval is denied.
In addition to the 1000-ft buffer, a 300-foot buffer is required between parks and community facilities, places of worship and family care facilities. A 1500-ft buffer is required between a cannabis lounge and any business that has at least 15 slot machines.
As reported by The Nevada Independent, in finalizing ordinances, Vegas city council maintained the originally proposed $10,000 licensing fee, though other regulations were updated. A “social equity” license was introduced to level the playing field after criticism of the small number of minority-owned cannabis businesses originally awarded licenses. The social equity license cost was reduced from $2,500 to $1,500. Outdoor cannabis smoking spaces are also allowed, and the city no longer requires that neighbouring businesses approve of a proposed cannabis lounge.
In Canada, cannabis consumption lounges are an idea that provincial governments are slow to act upon. In 2020, Ontario sought public feedback, but has yet to move forward. A few retail cannabis shops are operating outdoor consumption lounges that adjoin their shops, regardless. So far, no province has legalized cannabis consumption spaces.
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