BC makes it OK to promote smoking cannabis in public

Published on February 15, 2024 by David Wylie

Smoking cannabis on a rooftop Photo: File photo/Simon Gerard/the oz.
A group hangs out on the roof of the Hotel Eldorado in Kelowna, BC.

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em!

New rules in BC state that wherever you can smoke or vape tobacco—whether it’s bars, hotels, festivals, or other events and venues—you can now smoke and vape cannabis, too.

Not only that, the BC government also announced cannabis retailers and producers can now promote places where people can consume or hang out after consuming. That can include their own patios or picnic areas.

The change was made quietly this week (Feb. 14) through a bulletin on the province’s website, and there was no accompanying news release.

“To support the legal cannabis industry in the province, the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) is making gradual changes to improve hospitality and tourism opportunities for the cannabis industry,” says the bulletin.

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

The bulletin says local governments, Indigenous nations, and police agencies are notified of these changes.

“If local authorities in your area have not heard about these changes, you can direct them to our website or email [email protected],” it says.

Cannabis spaces have been hinted at for a year

BC Deputy Premier Mike Farnworth mused during an industry event last year that soon cannabis tourists could light up a pre-roll at a cannabis farmgate stop to test the goods.

“We’ll look at whether there is a need to tweak regulations to allow farmgate store customers to buy a pre-roll and then smoke it outside—at a picnic table for example—to inform their decision about whether to make a larger purchase,” he told a crowd in Kelowna last spring.

Nearly a year later, it’s coming to pass.

Can’t smoke inside cannabis shops

A major caveat is that cannabis consumption is still not allowed in cannabis stores.

“Licensees must ensure any cannabis consumption near their store is not within their establishment,” says the bulletin.

While you can’t consume inside, you can consume nearby. That means cannabis stores that have a picnic area next to their establishments can tell their customers they can consume cannabis at the picnic area, as long as:

You’ll soon see more cannabis logos on posters

To help allow promotion, the province is lifting restrictions in Section 5.7.7 of the retail handbook that disallows advertising and branding that could indicate that a licensee is associated with another business. The move is to ensure licensed and non-licensed businesses have equal opportunity to participate in cannabis advertising.

“For example, cannabis stores can now promote an outdoor consumption space (e.g., patio) at another business,” says the bulletin.

The bulletin notes that licensees must continue to comply with the federal Cannabis Act and relevant local bylaws with respect to restrictions around cannabis advertising and promotions.