File photo.

Cannabis lounges should be considered in B.C.: Victoria City Council

Council asks province to allow spaces for public consumption

Marijuana lounges could be in Victoria’s future if the province follows the city’s lead.

The City of Victoria submitted a list of recommendations to the province for cannabis regulations following legalization next year. Council’s positions on public consumption, minimum age, personal possession, drug-impaired driving, personal cultivation, and distribution and retail models were discussed.

Designated areas for consuming marijuana were suggested, particularly for those who cannot smoke in their home.

“Renters, specifically, could face eviction for using cannabis in their households, which will be a legal substance, and for many people, is their medicine,” Coun. Jeremy Loveday said. “If there are bylaws from the CRD, or laws provincially that ban it in public, that would mean there is actually no place for them to use their medicine.”

RELATED: Consider workplace safety in legalized marijuana rules, group urges

Coun. Margaret Lucas said she thought there should be a distinction between medicinal and recreational, noting there are laws that regulate smoking although tobacco is legal.

“You can’t open a cigar-smoking lounge anymore … you can’t have those, even with the ventilation and everything,” she said. “Cigarette smoking, there’s nothing illegal about that, and we don’t allow it in those places either.”

Coun. Ben Isitt said vaping would be healthier for people to consume, and for potential employees who may work in a marijuana lounge, but he’d prefer the provincial government decide on the way people can consume the drug.

“We’re not very prescriptive in how alcohol is consumed,” he said. “People are allowed to drink it, I don’t even know if there’s laws saying you can’t inject alcohol in a club or a lounge or private club for that matter, but we don’t have that level of specificity,” he said.

But Coun. Geoff Young suggested allowing marijuana smoking in public, and in lounges, would contradict current tobacco smoking laws.

“We do have to avoid the ridiuclous situation that would arise if we allowed consumption of cannabis by smoking in places we don’t allow cigarette smoking,” he said. “All of the health benefits we’ve gained by control of smoking would be lost.”

Drug-impaired driving was also discussed. The city asked the province for: strong restrictions on drug-impaired driving; educational and awareness campaigns on cannabis-impaired driving; and roadside testing, suspension and prohibition programs.

Unlike a roadside breathalyzer test to detect alcohol intoxication, there is no equivalent test for marijuana. Police may use a blood test, but marijuana is detectable even weeks after use, long after the user is sober. For this reason, council supported a zero tolerance on impairment for L and N licence holders, not zero tolerance for detecting marijuana on a blood test.

RELATED: VicPD chief: Legalizing marijuana will require more police resources

Loveday said drug-impaired driving is already something many constituents are concerned about, but he wonders how much policing this will cost.

“It was raised by our police chief that legalization of cannabis will raise costs of policing for municipalities, and I think that is the exact opposite of what legalization should do,” he said.

“If that is the result of the legalization framework that’s coming in, we should push back on that, and say we can’t afford to pay, and it’s not the right type of framework.”

On distribution, council would like to see a differentiation between medicinal and non-medicinal cannabis, and options for local enterprise, craft enterprise, and small business in cultivation, distribution and retail sale. They also asked the province to allow for public and private selling, and create a provincial standard covering cannabis retail.

RELATED: B.C. says 50-50 pot tax split with feds not good enough, province needs more

On cultivation, council supported Bill C-45. Councillors further asked that the city continue to have zoning authority for location of both public and private retail outlets.

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