Cannabis cafes? B.C. seeks feedback on loosening pot rules

Cannabis plants are photographed during the grand opening event for the CannTrust Niagara Greenhouse Facility in Fenwick, Ont., on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

Should British Columbians be able to buy cannabis at a concert or festival? How about at a cafe or spa?

It’s a question the provincial government is putting to the public in a new public consultation, as it considers legalizing the on-site sale or use of marijuana at businesses or special events in what it calls “cannabis consumption spaces.”

“We have heard from cannabis businesses that consumption spaces could provide an opportunity for the sector to become more economically viable and could better meet the interests of people who use cannabis,” Solicitor General and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said in a media release.

“At the same time, others have raised public health and safety concerns, which will need to be carefully weighed. We want to hear the views of all British Columbians so they can help shape how B.C.’s cannabis sector continues to evolve.”

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As a part of the consultation process, the province has released a discussion paper, laying out potential economic benefits along with health and safety concerns.

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B.C.’s current legal framework only allows licensed and authorized retail stores to sell cannabis and bans on-site use.

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The creation of consumption spaces could change that, allowing things like consumption areas at retail stores, tours of cannabis farms with a sampling component, cannabis cooking classes, cannabis gardens at music festivals or consumption areas at concerts, or the sale of cannabis beverages at restaurants.

The discussion paper says allowing consumption spaces could help build a cannabis tourism industry while helping producers showcase product and build their brands.

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However, potential implications such as increased rates of cannabis use or incidences of impaired driving must be considered, it says.

If the province did move ahead with the concept, safety and public health concerns would guide the implementation, with a ban on indoor smoking or vaping remaining in place.

British Columbians have until 4 p.m. on May 9 to weigh in on the concept through an online survey or written submissions.

The province is expected to release a report on the public response next fall.

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