Council mulls marijuana use in compassion clubs

Council is looking at allowing onsite consumption in some compassion clubs.

It’s been more than a month since the City of Victoria implemented its new cannabis laws, but now council is looking at allowing onsite consumption in some compassion clubs.

During a meeting Thursday, council passed a motion to have city staff look at exempting existing non-profit cannabis operationsestablished prior to 2009 that have continuously operated since then, while still being subject to other regulations.

“One of the issues for me that continually created concern as we moved through creating local regulations for cannabis regulations was the clause that stopped on-site use,” said Coun. Marianne Alto, who brought forward the motion with councillors Jeremy Loveday and Charlayne Thornton-Joe. “There are a couple of compassion clubs in the city that have provided a valuable service for many decades without any concerns being brought up from the public or police.”

Thornton-Joe believes having certain long-standing organizations exempt from the regulations prohibiting the smoking of cannabis onsite, gives people a safe space to consume it for medicinal purposes, adding a number of medicinal marijuana users could get evicted if they smoke in their homes.

“One thing I’ve learned about cannabis regulation is the depth and breadth of people who use cannabis for medicinal purposes,” she said. “(Many people) are stigmatized or get in trouble for using in their homes.”

In September, council moved forward with new cannabis regulations in an attempt to put limits on the booming sector.

There are 38 known medical marijuana-related businesses operating in Victoria that sell marijuana paraphernalia, provide medical advice and/or manufacture products containing marijuana, only eight of which have business licences that allow for the sale of such products.

As part of the new regulations, storefront retailers must not be open between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., no individuals under the age of 19 are permitted, no advertising to promote the use of marijuana to a minor, and health and safety warning signs must be posted on the premises. Marijuana must not be consumed on the premise as well and businesses must submit security plans, police information checks and proof of a security alarm contract. Rezoning is also required.

Geoff Young was the only councillor to vote against the motion, noting an exemption could open the doors to other non profit organizations looking for a break as well.

“This idea that we can short cut it or cut the process and designate (an organization) and say it’s okay for them to operate but no one else, it’s not an approach that I can support,” he said.

Earlier this year, the federal government announced it would be introducing new legislation to legalize marijuana in spring 2017.