Cannabis users are advocating for changes to local bylaws to allow for indoor smoking in certain situations.
The long-standing Cannabis Buyers Club is leading the way with a petition to the Capital Regional District (CRD) to allow for a variance in its Clean Air Bylaw, which prohibits smoking in many places, including indoors. The proposed variance would allow businesses and event organizers to apply for a permit to allow smoking on site.
The Cannabis Buyers Club, located at 826 Johnson St. has been open for 23 years, and at its current location since 2001. Within the establishment is a smoking room, where members of the club can smoke or vape cannabis in a private setting. The establishment has gone without fines for the smoking room.
“We’re still an old-school compassion club; patients come with medical documentation and that’s the one thing that we think is significant,” said founder Ted Smith, adding that the club and its 7,000 members have always been discreet. This came to light in 2018 when the club applied for rezoning, and had neighbours writing in that they’d never even knew the establishment was there, Smith said.
“It was a vindication of having done such a good job with our smoking room because our neighbours didn’t know we exist.”
Recently Island Health and WorkSafe BC representatives toured the club, and were concerned with the smokey air.
“We negotiated with Island Health to delay any enforcement of action until more legislation comes in from the government,” Smith explained. “We’re hoping to get it done in six to eight months.”
Presently neither the provincial nor federal governments have any policies in place to allow cannabis smoking in public spaces. It is also unclear if private establishments, such as clubs or clinics, can be waived of these restrictions.
The City of Victoria also lacks any specific legislation, waiting on the higher levels of government to come forward.
However, councillors are warming up to the idea of taking municipal action if any more delays occur. This was demonstrated when councillors voted to delay any decisions about piloting a cannabis consumption site, which was discouraged by city staff.
In a committee of the whole meeting on Thursday Coun. Ben Isitt motioned to delay a decision until more information came forward.
“If that information suggests that there’s foot dragging and that those levels of government aren’t going to act, I don’t think we should close our minds to the city taking an approach similar to the one we took with retail sale of cannabis to develop areas of regulation different than tradition municipal rules,” Isitt said.
Other councillors agreed, including Coun. Marianne Alto.
“I do think there will be time when perhaps, due to a lack of movement by other levels of government, that we do need to take some of our staff’s valuable time to investigate some of those options, but I also believe that day is not today,” Alto said.
In the meantime, Smith and other cannabis advocates are collecting signatures by going door-to-door and encouraging people to stop by their establishment. The petition is not online, Smith says, because he wants all signatures to be from residents of the CRD. In the first days of canvassing, several hundred signatures were collected.
Smith will present his position and the petition at an upcoming council meeting on July 11.
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