Victoria City staff are recommending the City does not move forward with a cannabis consumption site pilot after reviewing measures taken in other cities.
In a six-page report coming to council for consideration this week, city clerk Chris Coates recommends no action on consumer sites, citing provincial authority as the largest hurdle.
“The legislation around consumption is still not addressed in such a way as to provide clear opportunities for consumption sites,” the report reads. “The Province of BC has indicated that consumption rules are under review. Initiating a pilot or introducing regulations for cannabis consumption sites in this complex regulatory environment could result in conflict with Canada or the Province.”
This leaves currently operating cannabis lounges frustrated, as there is not a way for them to move forward.
Kyle Cheyne owns the Terp City Canna Lounge at 950 Yates St. which opened in April 2019 after moving from its long-operating site on Douglas Street. The lounge offers indoor and outdoor cannabis consumption space, but does not sell cannabis on site.
The lounge and former dispensary has operated in the City in one form or another for 10 years, but never received an official licence. Cheyne has put in several applications without success, and added that communications between his business and the City have reached a standstill.
“In Victoria it’s an awkward situation,” Cheyne said. “They have 100 per cent authority in their positions to literally have one council meeting and vote to put a temporary licence in place but they’re not doing that at all.”
Since April the City has not issued any fines to Terp City, and police have also not put forward any disciplinary action. However, the City has also not responded to Cheyne’s requests to put a lounge application in as there are currently no policies in place to do so.
“It’s very frustrating because nothing is moving forward,” Cheyne said. “Every message from the Province is just ‘hold on’ so we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Recently, however, provincial authorities visited Terp City and told staff that since there’s no municipal licence in place that the establishment needs to shut down. Cheyne said he’ll wait for an official letter from the Province before any action is taken.
“If they’re going to send a fine or drop off an official letter we’ll have to do something,” Cheyne said. “If they do, I’ll have to consider suing the City.”
Legislation in other cities including Toronto, Halifax and Denver, Col. were explored by the City, each with different results.
In Toronto, cannabis consumption and vaping are permitted in public parks, sparking an upcoming outdoor cannabis music festival this summer. In Halifax the municipality prohibits consumption on all public property but has set up 83 designated smoking and vaping areas.
In Denver an initial 2017 pilot for consumption lounges failed to take off, but a renewed version was put forward in February 2019.
Comparatively, the City of Victoria noted that private properties may set up designated smoking and vaping sites as seen at the Victoria International Airport and the University of Victoria, which have specifically marked benches.
“It remains that Victoria may likely only exercise its rights as a private property owner and set up designated smoking/vaping areas, as do Vancouver and Victoria airports and the UVic campus,” the report reads.
City staff recommend that the report be received for information on Thursday, with no specified actions tied to its acceptance.
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