Victoria council has directed staff to research cannabis lounges in other municipalities as marijuana legalization fast approaches, with no plan for designated smoking areas in sight.
Coun. Ben Isitt first broached the topic in an Aug. 9 meeting, but readdressed the issue on Thursday, reminding fellow councillors that only six weeks remain until recreational consumption becomes legal.
Isitt’s largest concern centred around what he called discriminating consumption rights based on economic divisions – a scenario created by the Capital Regional District’s Clean Air Bylaw.
“People who are fortunate enough to have private land, own their homes and have outdoor spaces [around] their homes can smoke, but for people who don’t have that luxury there’s nowhere to lawfully consume this stuff, so there’s a disconnect,” he said at the committee of the whole meeting. “Thousands can’t lawfully consume it in their homes, so how are they supposed to do it?”
Isitt had previously proposed piloting courtyard-based cannabis lounges in the city to stay in line with the CRD bylaw, which prohibits smoking or vaping any substance within seven metres of a door, on a patio, or in any public spaces including playing fields, playgrounds and public squares.
Mayor Lisa Helps agreed that some kind of policy was needed to avoid future headaches.
“I don’t want to be dealing with unintended consequences,” she said. “I’d rather be proactive and get our staff on policy.”
The City has already faced problems with several indoor cannabis lounges running illegally, including Terp City Canna Lounge at 1412 Douglas St.
As of May 2018, the City had issued many tickets to the business, totalling over $25,000 in fines.
They have also opened a civil proceeding, seeking injunctive relief to shut down the business.
“Regrettably, we have not yet been successful in bringing out compliance with our bylaws,” wrote City solicitor Tom Zworksi in a May 23 letter to a resident concerned about the lounge. “Both bylaw prosecutions and the civil action are moving through the court, which is a slow process.”
In the meantime, City staff will look to Denver, Colo. which opened its first cannabis lounge in March. The Coffee Joint in that city allows patrons to bring their own cannabis and vape or eat marijuana products, but does not allow smoking indoors.