British Columbia

Second-hand smoke a top concern in B.C. cannabis consultations

More than 30,000 people have submitted feedback to the province on how non-medical cannabis should be regulated and sold in B.C.

Province working on rules for sale and consumption of non-medical cannabis ahead of legalization

A man smokes marijuana at the Vancouver Art Gallery during the annual 420 day in this 2012 file photo. (Ben Nelms/Reuters)

Second-hand smoke has emerged as a top concern as the province nears the end of public consultation on cannabis regulation, says B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.

The province is working to draw up rules for the sale and consumption of non-medical cannabis before it is legalized by the federal government in July, 2018. B.C.'s public consultation period ends Nov. 1.

It will take time for the ministry to sort through the more than 30,000 responses it has received so far, Farnworth said. 

But it's already clear that many people are worried about second-hand marijuana smoke, he added.

'Strong views'

"People have very strong views, particularly when it impacts their private space, such as their condo unit for example or their backyard or whatever," he said.

The issue will be addressed in the new cannabis regulations, Farnworth said.

"It's one that was fully anticipated as an issue, so I expect, in fact I know, it will be dealt with in the new regulatory framework."

Some hope the new rules will go further than what is in place to protect people from second-hand tobacco smoke.

Legislation in 2008 ended smoking in the common areas of apartment and condo buildings, but the rule doesn't apply inside private suites.

Call for more protection

The Clean Air Coalition of B.C. regularly receives complaints from people in apartments and condos about both marijuana and tobacco smoke, said director Jack Boomer.

People can complain to the Residential Tenancy Branch if smoke from a neighbouring suite is ruining what is known as the "quiet enjoyment" of a unit, but Boomer said the results of complaints vary.

"One of the things that we would encourage the provincial government [to do] is actually amend the residential tenancy laws so they actually reflect the fact that quiet enjoyment includes tobacco smoke and cannabis smoke," Boomer said.

Another possible solution is to require disclosure of which suites in a building do not have no-smoking clauses in their tenancy agreement, Boomer added.

That way people can decide whether second-hand smoke may be an issue before moving in, he said.

More research needed

Because cannabis has been illegal in Canada, little research has been done on the potential harms of exposure to second-hand marijuana smoke, said Dr. Milan Khara, an addiction physician with the smoking cessation program at Vancouver Coastal Health.

But it's reasonable to expect the effects are similar to tobacco smoke, Khara added.

"Very likely marijuana smoke is as harmful as cigarette smoke, but the evidence at this time is not well established."

However, Dr. Ian Mitchell, a cannabis prescriber in Kamloops who is studying the effectiveness of medical cannabis on PTSD symptoms, disagrees.

Mitchell says while second-hand cannabis smoke has not been the subject of much research, studies have shown direct cannabis smoke does not have the same detrimental affects as tobacco smoke.

"You might not like the smell, but it's really not a danger to anybody."