CANNABIS CULTURE – Vancouver City Council passed changes to by-laws on Wednesday banning the “vaporization” of “any substance” in the same places smoking is prohibited, but officials publicly stated that the new rules would not be used to target medical marijuana users or vapor lounges.
At the end of a marathon Council Session lasting over 13 hours and including several items of business, councillors voted unanimously to change the definition of “burning” to mean “to produce smoke, vapour or other substances that can be inhaled.”
Councillors also modified the definition of “smoking” to include “burning a cigarette or cigar, or burning any substance using a pipe, hookah pipe, lighted smoking device or electronic smoking device,” while striking out the words “or other weed” from the original by-law.
Another by-law was amended to add the definition of “Electronic Cigarettes” as “electronic cigarettes, electronic pipes, electronic hookahs, or similar devices that can be used to deliver nicotine or other substances, and replaceable cartridges and refills used with those devices.”
Despite adding new language that could be interpreted as banning marijuana vaporization and vapor lounges, city officials publicly stated the new by-laws would not be used to target marijuana smokers.
“This by-law has no prohibition in terms of anybody who needs anything for medicinal purposes,” Vancouver City Manager Penny Ballem told city councillors, who had asked her for clarification about ambiguous language in an earlier draft of the amendment. “The speaker asked ‘Will there be any shutting down of vapor and other like lounges that exist?’ I guess that is part of something you received as a change that will be addressed. There is an outstanding court case I have to advise council of involving interpretation of the current health provision we have, and as such the proposed amendment does not change those particular matters.”
Cannabis Culture spoke with the City Manager’s office and we are waiting for clarification on what she meant by “something you received as a change that will be addressed” and of which court case she was referencing. We have been promised a statement but nothing arrived by the time of publication of this article.
On breaks from Council business throughout the day, City Staffers repeatedly told Cannabis Culture and and other cannabis activists they did not intend to close down marijuana-related vapor lounges, and that their only focus was “e-cigarettes.”
City Councillor Adriane Carr, referencing questioned asked earlier in the day by members of the marijuana community who spoke to Council, asked City Staff, “Could there be an interpretation of [the words]‘other substances’ that could be used under this by-law to shut down the use of cannabis medicinally – I know you’ve stated that it won’t, but I don’t see any wording that protects those that have the legal right to use marijuana.”
City Manager Penny Ballem again assured Council that the law would not be used to target those with a medical right to use cannabis.
“Any prescribed medicinal product – and marijuana can be prescribed by physicians – and that’s issued under the legal framework by Health Canada for medicinal marijuana is not subject to this by-law,” Ballem said. “Councillor, as you know the issue of marijuana is very grey zone right now, we are trying to sort that out, so we’ve gone over this and I best advice from Health is that it’s not necessary to do that. If we name one medicinal product that’s prescribed by a physician and legally dispensed we’re going to get into whole laundry list, and that’s not the purpose of this.”
Erring on the side of caution, Carr proposed an amendment to modify the language of the bills to include “excluding cannabis”, as a way to protect pot users. Carr’s amendment did not pass.
“Given that the old law specifically referenced an ‘other weed or substance’ and yet didn’t result in that kind of enforcement, I feel confident that we can pass this today – put the circle around the challenges we are facing on e-cigarettes,” Councillor Andrea Reimer said. “The debate today really did highlight some of the challenges of having the medical marijuana dispensaries not having a clear legal framework to operate in the city and I think that’s really the issue, but I don’t think it’s reasonable for the public that we would tonight start making regulations about how to manage those without giving proper notice about that discussion.”
The e-cigarette and vaporizer ban passed the final vote unanimously.