BC allows smoking, vaping cannabis on public patios, cannabis stores can now promote places to consume

| David Brown

BC has announced changes to its cannabis regulations that allow retail cannabis stores to promote a place to consume cannabis or to spend time after consuming cannabis. 

Smoking and vaping cannabis on public patios is also now permitted where smoking and vaping tobacco are already allowed, subject to local or Indigenous government bylaws and other rules. 

BC first engaged the public about these proposed changes in 2023 as part of a broader industry outreach initiative.

Previously, these were both specifically not allowed under BC’s regulations. The restrictions on associations with another business in Section 5.1.7 of the CRS and PRS Licensee Handbooks have been removed. The language restricting the promotion of a place to consume cannabis or spend time after consuming cannabis is also removed from the CRS and PRS Licensee Handbooks.

The provincial government notes that cannabis consumption is still not allowed in cannabis stores. Licensees must ensure any cannabis consumption near their store is not within their establishment.

Smoking and vaping are prohibited in all workplaces and indoor public spaces in BC. Tobacco and vapour products can be used on an outdoor hospitality patio, such as the patio of a bar, casino, or café, as long as it is within a buffer zone and there are no open windows, doors or active air intakes between the patio and the hospitality venue.

BC has been increasingly focussing on the issue of consumption spaces and cannabis tourism, launching a province-wide engagement paper last year. The What We Heard report from that engagement process was released in January 2023. The report showed significant public support for consumption spaces, balanced with concerns from law enforcement and public health agencies.

Jaclynn Pehota, the executive director of the Retail Cannabis Council of BC (RCCBC), told Stratcann that the organization is supportive of the “small” step forward.

“These are necessary changes especially for non cannabis primary businesses. We hope it will encourage them to embrace and promote cannabis friendly consumption venues and events. The team at LRCCBC believe that these changes are small but positive positive steps towards reducing stigma and supporting BC’s potential for cannabis tourism. 

“We are optimistic that these are the first steps towards a more comprehensive cannabis consumption strategy from the BC government and are hopeful that these changes signals an embrace of cannabis tourism by our sitting government. We encourage regulators to explore further support for the budding cannabis tourism industry in BC.”

(Note: This article has been edited to include new comments from RCCBC).

Jeff Guignard, Executive Director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees (ABLE BC), which also offers services for BC’s retail cannabis sector, says he’s excited by the announcement. 

“This is great news for BC’s cannabis, hospitality, and tourism industries and we’re immensely grateful to our government partners for their support.

“Not only can businesses now promote places to consume cannabis, but the government has also aligned cannabis consumption rules with the rules for smoking or vaping tobacco, which just makes sense. It gives businesses much-needed flexibility to serve their cannabis-friendly customers.”

“We’re also excited that government is taking further steps toward cannabis consumption lounges, which will create an entirely new dimension for our growing industry,” he adds. “As we discussed with Solicitor General Mike Farnworth recently, we still have a lot of work to do to support legally licensed retailers. But these small steps in the right direction are clear signs that government is listening, and we as an industry are making important progress.”

Cannabis consumption in BC

One cannabis retailer in Cumberland is currently developing a community space that includes an outdoor cannabis consumption area.

British Columbia’s stance on indoor smoking and vaping restrictions has made outdoor consumption spaces like the one in Cumberland an attractive option, says Max Oudendag, who has been assisting Michael Arneja, the owner of Cumberland, BC’s Trugreen Cannabis on their consumption space.

“We’re excited to be in a position to explore how to break down the stigma of cannabis consumption and find a way to integrate that into a healthy community gathering space,” Oudendag told StratCann late last year.

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