Cannabis consumption spaces beginning to open in BC

| Staff

A cannabis store in Penticton hopes to become one of the first cannabis stores in the province with a designated consumption area. 

Cannabis Cottage, located in downtown Penticton, says it hopes to have its grand opening for the outdoor consumption space on April 20, bringing in food trucks, local artists, and performers.

This was what we were hoping to do from the beginning. We secured a space with the hope that at some point the government would allow for consumption spaces as well. So right now we’re just jumping over the moon.

Marianna Wolff, Cannabis Cottage

The store owner, Marianna Wolff, says she chose the location for her store, on a major thoroughfare in the city’s downtown, because it had a large front yard that could serve as a lounge space for customers. 

Initially, BC’s rules did not allow for such a consumption space, but a rule change announced in February of this year finally made it possible. That rule change made it so that existing patio spaces where smoking and vaping of tobacco products are allowed can now also allow cannabis use. 

It also made it so that cannabis stores, like Cannabis Cottage, can advertise consumption spaces. BC first engaged the public about these proposed changes in 2023 as part of a broader industry outreach initiative.

“We are totally thrilled,” says Wolff. “This was what we were hoping to do from the beginning. We secured a space with the hope that at some point the government would allow for consumption spaces as well. So right now we’re just jumping over the moon.”

She says she has worked with her neighbours, which includes a church, to ensure they are okay with the use of the outdoor space as a lounge. All of them gave their approval. The parish members did ask that no consumption occur during the operating hours of its Sunday School, something Wolff said she was happy to accommodate. 

She says she chose the space specifically because it was not near areas like parks or schools, and would have the approval of its neighbours. 

“The spot itself I feel is very indicative of spaces that can be good candidates for outdoor cannabis consumption without disrupting anybody who doesn’t necessarily want to have to smell it.”

Cannabis Cottage first experimented with bringing in local food trucks during a customer appreciation event last fall.

“It was very successful. It was a great show of how you can have designated space for people to enjoy their cannabis in a similar way that you might go to a brewery and enjoy a beer or go to a winery patio and enjoy a glass of wine.”

The format is similar to one taken by a cannabis retailer in Cumberland, BC, on Vancouver Island. 

Max Oudendag has been assisting Michael Arneja, the owner of Cumberland, BC’s Trugreen Cannabis, on a large outdoor community space that will include a formal cannabis consumption area.

“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.

Like the pop-up event Cannabis Cottage held last fall, Trugreen held several pop-ups in 2023 as a test run for their project, which they say they have been working hand-in-hand with the province to develop. 

Arneja says they also plan on launching a grand opening for the first stage of their outdoor consumption space in Cumberland on April 20, as well.

His vision extends beyond the mere creation of a cannabis consumption area, instead seeking to nurture “a stigma-free space where the community can gather and celebrate the cannabis culture with a responsible blend of cannabis use and community building.”

“We’ve been operating these pop-ups to see what the space could look like, and to get feedback from the community on what they want it to look like,” he adds, highlighting the project’s community-driven nature.

Sam Jones, the owner of 2% Jazz Coffee, a cafe in Victoria, says that beginning in April his store will be hosting monthly cannabis-themed events, as well. 

“It’s a very casual affair,” explains Jones. “There’s no smoking indoors at all. No buying, nothing like that. It’s just an open cafe where people can go out on the patio and smoke a joint. Then you can come back in and enjoy a coffee and some good conversation. 

Instead, he works with local cannabis companies who help host the event, which can serve as a learning session for those interested. The coffee shop will also be hosting a cannabis seed exchange on the last Friday in March.

“We just want to provide a space where the idea of having a joint can be normalized.”

-Note: This article was edited to include information on the 2% Jazz Coffee.

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