As the legalization of marijuana nears, the City of Victoria is exploring the idea of cannabis lounges, modelled after a pilot project in Denver.
A motion being introduced by Coun. Ben Isitt will be discussed by councillors at their Aug. 9 meeting. It requests City staff to look at local clean air regulations and compare them with the situation in Denver, where cannabis lounges opened after the state legalized marijuana.
“Now that it’s going to be legal in two-and-a-half months, there are questions of where it’s appropriate to consume the substance, particularly for people who can’t use it in their homes,” said Isitt, who is also a Capital Regional District director. “Some may think they can go outside, but with CRD regulations, we have pretty strict rules with the Clean Air Bylaw.”
The bylaw mandates that no one can smoke or vape any substance within seven metres of a door, on a patio, or any public spaces including playing fields, playgrounds and public squares.
If Isitt’s motion passes, staff would report back to council in the fall and advise whether the City should move forward with the plan.
While owners of detached homes can smoke on or inside their own property, renters and owners of townhouses and condominiums are restricted by landlord and strata rules.
“There’s a certain unfairness that only people who own their own [single family] homes can consume it [on the premises],” Isitt said. “It makes you ask, ‘should people be permitted to consume it in a social setting?’”
While hundreds of restaurants, bars, lounges and private clubs across Greater Victoria allow for alcohol consumption, currently none of these establishments would be able to accommodate cannabis smoking due to the CRD bylaw.
Isitt noted that new provincial regulations ban cannabis use in workplaces or indoors – the same as for smoking cigarettes – but he suggested a possible work-around could be to establish cannabis patios set back from sidewalks, streets and neighbouring windows. “A good option would be a downtown space with a courtyard where employees wouldn’t have to provide support in that area,” he said. “Maybe somewhere with a self-serving food or coffee station.”
While the close proximity of buildings in Victoria’s downtown core wouldn’t allow for many cannabis lounges meeting these specifications, Isitt is hopeful that new buildings and businesses outside the core could be established.
“I think there are a number of potential sites, and we’ve just got to figure out what the rules should be,” he said. “The advantage of a pilot project is rules can be implemented on an interim basis.”