Proposed Vancouver By-law Changes Could Be Used To Ban Marijuana Vapor Lounges

CANNABIS CULTURE – Marijuana activists are raising red flags about proposed changes to Vancouver by-laws that could be used to ban and shut down vapor lounges in the city.

Members of Vancouver’s City Council have extended the discussion about a policy report from city staff which suggests making amendments to Health by-law that would “prohibit the smoking (‘vapourizing’) of electronic cigarettes and similar devices in the same places that tobacco smoking is disallowed.”

Council has invited the public to attend today’s City Council meeting to give further input on the proposed regulations. Several members of Vancouver’s marijuana activist community have been added to the speakers list to voice concerns the new law may be used to target medical marijuana users and vapor lounges.

Dana Larsen, a long-time marijuana activist and founder of the Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary, said in an online statement that “whatever the city’s intent, the wording of this bylaw means that if it is fully enforced, vapour lounges would be shut down.”

Larsen said the language used in the by-law to target “Electronic Cigarettes” would also includes thing like volcano vaporizers, “electronic pipes, electronic hookahs, or similar devices that can be used to deliver nicotine or other substance.” Larsen also said the by-law could “block vapor lounges from advertising, and maybe even from calling themselves a ‘vapour lounge’ as that is promoting the use of vaporizers where minors can see,” which is banned by the new law.

“This bylaw would apply to Vancouver hospitals which currently allow some patients to vaporize cannabis inside,” he said. “A patient in a Vancouver hospital currently using a volcano vaporizer indoors would have a very difficult time trying to get themselves and their volcano outdoors to join the tobacco smokers.”

Larsen said he recommends “the city include some wording to exclude anyone vaporizing for medical purposes,” that would also protect dispensaries and lounges allowing patients to vaporize on the premises.

Pot activist Neil Magnuson told Cannabis Culture he will suggest to council that Vancouver follow San Francisco in declaring itself “a sanctuary for cannabis consumers and compassion clubs” and adopt the Sensible Policing Act proposed by SensibleBC.

Some activists aren’t as worried, pointing out that Vancouver’s current by-laws, if fully-enforced, could also be used to shut down vapor lounges.

Larsen agrees that current laws could be used to target lounges, but said that “the current exclusion of vaporizing from the bylaw gives the city an excuse to ignore” them. “How will they justify ignoring vapour lounges right after they pass a bylaw banning vaporization? While the current Mayor and Council might not use this kind of bylaw to shut down vapour lounges, a future council might choose to interpret it differently.”

City staff say they proposed the new by-law over worries e-cigs may pose similar health dangers as cigarettes, though evidence is not conclusive.

Earlier this year, a of 53 “top scientists” from around the world warned the World Health Organization “not to classify e-cigarettes in the same category as other tobacco products” because they are “part of the solution” in the global fight against smoking, as they provide a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes.

Vancouver City Council will meet today at City Hall at 9:30am to hear public input about the proposed changes.