Allowing cigar lounges to operate in Alberta while public cannabis consumption continues to be restricted is the government pandering to the “old boys club,” says the president of one cannabis store.
An exemption included in The Tobacco, Smoking and Vaping Reduction Act and Regulation allows for an indoor area where cigars can be smoked if ventilation requirements and room specifications are met and there’s no access for minors. No services, including cleaning, are allowed in the cigar lounge during operation.
If the government was going to do a thorough review of smoking regulations, cannabis lounges should have been part of the conversation, argues Danielle French, president of Enlightened Herb Cannabis.
But that’s not what happened.
“They have appeared to only have considered cigar lounges, so one has to ask themselves why? Who smokes cigars? Well, stereotypically it’s older white men who have money to afford such luxuries,” French continues in an email to Mugglehead.
“The optics of this decision that only benefits cigar lounges speaks quite clearly to me of what appears to be the [United Conservative Party’s] M.O. throughout their whole term so far — that they do what is best for them and pander to their ‘old boys club’ cronies at the expense of everyone else.”
French backs up her point with data.
According to Statistics Canada, only five per cent of young adults (age 20–24) reported smoking cigars within a 30-day period, when asked in 2019. It drops to three per cent for adults over 25. Smoking any type of cigar was more common among men (four per cent) than women (one per cent).
In contrast, the agency’s data from the same year shows 51 per cent of young adults reported consuming cannabis in some capacity over a 12-month period. For people 25 and over, the number drops to 21 per cent. Similarly, more men (29 per cent) reported cannabis-use than women (21 per cent).
“So why would the UCP go out of their way to instill a regressive public health policy that only benefits 3 per cent of the population? My guess, which feels like an obvious conclusion, is because the majority of those that it benefits are UCP supporters and/or the UCP members themselves,” French continues.
A health ministry spokesperson confirms the amendment will only apply to cigars in such lounges.
“The Tobacco, Smoking and Vaping Reduction Act and Regulation specifically prohibits smoking and vaping in a wide variety of public spaces and workplaces, in alignment with restrictions on where Albertans are prohibited for smoking or vaping cannabis.”
In Calgary, smoking weed in public can still bring a fine
In Calgary, smoking weed in public could result in a $100 fine under city bylaws, but as long as a cigar lounge doesn’t serve food and drink and the lounge is up to par, smoking cigars indoors will be permitted.
No designated cannabis consumption areas have been approved by Calgary city council.
The health ministry noted a cigar lounge is already operating in Alberta, which is on First Nation land and CBC reports is the only such lounge operating outside of Quebec.
“These new regulations are strict and fair – they level the field for other business owners who wish to attract adults who smoke cigars, while protecting their staff and other patrons from second-hand smoke,” the ministry of health email continues.
Alberta’s new bill, which passed last June, was designed to bring restrictions on vaping products in line with anti-smoking legislation. The cigar lounge exemption was approved by cabinet this June 23.
The regulatory changes take effect July 31.
The City of Edmonton had looked at allowing edibles-only consumption lounges prior to the pandemic.
This year, several U.S. states have adopted new cannabis laws, which include permitting consumption lounges.
Nevada, for instance, now allows two types of consumption lounges for pot smokers to enjoy their weed indoors.
Read more: Nevada allows weed consumption lounges
Indoor public cannabis consumption has yet to be permitted in Canada, though smoking is the most popular way weed is consumed, according to Statistics Canada.
However, Vancouver’s New Amsterdam Cafe has been operating outside federal law since it opened in 1988. Non-profit compassion society the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club deems its on-site consumption space as essential to its operations, but it temporarily shut down the space during the pandemic.
Cannabis lounges are already legal in California, Alaska and some U.S. cities.