[WHAT] CAN I SMOKE HERE?
Updated: Mar 10, 2019
With the somewhat recent investment from Marlboro’s owner Altria of 1.8 Million in a Cannabis Company, I knew I would be writing about these two industries at some point but didn't realise that this Instagram story would send me down a rabbit hole of questions.
When this Instagram story was sent to me, allowing tobacco consumption but prohibiting recreational cannabis, I immediately felt the need to investigate. My initial thoughts were mixed, and I wanted to ensure I thoroughly re-read the provincial and municipal regulations. With the location’s proximity to children’s outdoor sporting events and a local school, I was very understanding.
Curious in nature and always looking to educate, my first stop was the local business’ website itself. Not seeing any information on cannabis consumption, I reverted to what I knew: Health Canada's regulations. I spent the next 2 hours on the phone with everyone from Service Ontario to the local Health Units, wanting to make sure I had a definitive answer. I was surprised that no one seemed to be able to answer what I thought was a simple question: Is it legal to smoke cannabis anywhere tobacco consumption is legal?
Articles referencing Ford Nation and Provincial Regulations told me this was a simple yes, so why did the Cannabis Information Center refer me to Service Ontario who referred me to my Public Health Unit who referredme to, you guessed it, the Tobacco Information Line who were only able to direct me to the Ontario website and not confirm the answer to my question verbally?
When I started on this story, I saw it as a simple question: should businesses prohibit cannabis consumption? A couple of weeks since seeing the initial post that sparked my curiosity, I have dived much deeper: Big Tobacco in the Flourishing Cannabis Industry.
As a social change specialist for Leave the Pack Behind, I get the opportunity to take part in local events and forums focusing on tobacco consumption. As I was walking out of the health unit the other day with new 'Quit Smoking Kits' in hand, my eyes immediately darted to the familiar Tobacco Information Line number. Reading my supervisor's weekly newsletter is trulywhat got the ball rolling on this story, featuring one of the latest tobacco marketing schemes.
"Chill Eliquid packaging by RIP Trippers"
At first glance, what appeared to be just regular cans of soda attached to the email thread were revealed to be "big tobacco using their sneaky tactics once again and using the same effective lifestyle advertising strategies to sell vapes!" For decades, tobacco companies have not been permitted to use lifestyle advertising to promote cigarettes, and cannabis marketing restrictions are no different, if not stricter. I was frustrated at this marketing ploy, but suddenly, a light bulb went off in my head. What appeared to me to be a simple sign allowing tobacco consumption over cannabis consumption became something much bigger to me: is the tobacco industry going to benefit from the stigma against cannabis?
Following my phone calls, I checked on the Ontario.ca Cannabis Legalization page that informed me that the local business could prevent cannabis smoking or vaping due to itsproximately to children’s public areas (within 20 meters) but given the parking lot is not an enclosed public place, consumption could very well have been allowed.
Of course, going smoke-free all together would be a fantastic option, especially with cannabis topicals and edibles coming to the legal market very soon, but I was genuinely curious and wanted to understand the rationale behind the ban.
I sent an email to the business’ general inquiries account and heard back from management the next day. They informed me that the rationale behind the ban was simple, firstly, it is illegal to smoke cannabis in public places, the current law allows it in the home only and more importantly, because they were unable to gauge how much individuals would consume, and consumption could create a safety concern. While I do not disagree with the second point, I immediately saw the correlation with alcohol, which as far as I am aware is not banned. In the spirit of awareness and education, I replied back to management with the following:
"Thank you for your response. Although I understand the rationale behind not being able to know how much an individual will consume, the same is true for alcohol. Additionally, just so you are aware, it is not illegal to smoke cannabis in public places, the current law allows it in your home and in non-enclosed public places, 20 meters away from children.
"Where you can smoke and vape cannabis*
• Private residences – this does not include residences that are also workplaces (e.g. long-term care and/or retirement homes)
• Many outdoor public places (e.g. sidewalks, parks)
• Designated guest rooms in hotels, motels and inns
• Residential vehicles and boats that meet certain criteria (e.g. have permanent sleeping accommodations and cooking facilities, and are parked or anchored)
• Scientific research and testing facilities (if the cannabis use is for scientific research and testing purposes)
• Controlled areas in:
• long-term care homes
• certain retirement homes
• residential hospices
• provincially-funded supportive housing
• designated psychiatric facilities or veterans’ facilities
*Additional restrictions on smoking and vaping may exist in municipal bylaws, lease agreements, and the policies of employers and property owners.” - Cannabis Legalization: Ontario.ca
Of course, additional bylaws can be put in place by municipalities, but the City of Quinte West has not imposed such a bylaw. Going completely smoke-free would alleviate any issues and the laws pertaining to children and sports-related places could account for the ban as well, but it is important to stay informed.
I have yet to receive a response but hope these considerations will be taken into account during their next discussions on the topic. I do not want to pit substances against each other, but as illustrated in this case, staying informed and on top of the latest regulations is key for the prosperity of our community. The stigma revolving around cannabis is one I feel on a daily basis as a student in the field and one felt by medicinal patients for years.
On that note, this business does not prohibit medicinal patients from taking their medicine, they simply ask to be shown a prescription. This is very much in line with what other businesses are doing across Canada, and I completely understand the safety concerns people may have. That said, to play the devil's (lettuce?) advocate, how would you feel if someone asked you for your prescription the next time you took your pain management pharmaceuticals? Or Advil?
I would like to think I am relatively well versed in the cannabis industry, but even still it took me nearly two hours for my question regarding consumption to be directed to the appropriate channel, and even then, I was not given a verbal response. I strongly believe consulting opportunities are lacking, and businesses deserve more from government.
On the same token, I encourage businesses to do their due diligence when it comes to implementing cannabis related regulations and consider individual’s human rights. Whether you consume cannabis or not, I am a firm believer in education and awareness reducing stigma and encourage you to check out your provincial regulations. As an informed community, I am confident the cannabis industry can boost our economy.
I want to thank Kylie for sharing the sign and allowing me to reflect on yet another facet of this new industry. Check out one of her amazing initiatives https://magpiethrift.ca; connecting great thrifted items to good homes as a way to shop sustainably!
The Feminist of Cannabis
Here are the Ontario regulations: https://www.ontario.ca/page/cannabis-legalization.