Victoria restaurant hopes to serve cannabis-infused food and drink
'The world is moving in this direction,' says restaurant operator
The people behind a new Victoria restaurant hope to eventually serve food and drink containing cannabis.
Trees: Island Grown is a new downtown eatery opened by Trees Cannabis Company, one of several dispensaries in Victoria that continues to operate while it waits for official licensing from the province.
Alex Robb, CEO of Trees, says the restaurant does not serve anything containing cannabis extracts right now, but eventually it would like to include those options on the menu.
"We don't want to push the bounds on this one," Robb said. "We've come a long way since 2015, prior to cannabis being legalized, when we were activists that were making sure that people had access to cannabis for medical purposes.
"Now the world is moving in this direction."
In 2016, the City of Victoria enacted regulations for marijuana dispensaries at a municipal level before federal legalization came into effect. But a staff report that will come before Victoria councillors this week suggests it's unlikely the city would consider a similar move for consumption sites.
The report says the city does not have the authority to authorize the sites, even as pilot projects, and it recommends council wait for federal and provincial direction around edible cannabis products and consumption sites.
A matter of time
Robb is optimistic about the timeline for serving cannabis in restaurants.
"I do think that it's just a matter of a year or a year-and-a-half until the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch is going to want to start supplying cannabis to restaurants and other cannabis consumption lounges in the same way that it supplies alcohol to cafes and restaurants."
Last month, Health Canada announced regulations for edible cannabis, which will become legal in October, although it says retail products likely won't be available until mid-December.
The B.C. government has not indicated how it would deal with cannabis consumption sites or restaurants serving cannabis-infused food.
Richard Stanwick, Island Health's chief medical health officer, says he is aware of the interest in selling cannabis-infused food and drink.
Stanwick said the effects of edibles will be new territory for consumers and regulators.
"People absorb at different rates. The concern would be that some people would be feeling the effects perhaps by the beginning of the first course, while somebody may not be getting much of a buzz until dessert.
"Part of this is going to be people actually becoming aware of how rapidly they metabolize the product and how quickly it hits."
Robb said other jurisdictions have had to grapple with the fallout from eating or drinking cannabis products.
"A lot of the concern around the legalization of edibles is coming from stories of Colorado and other places where edibles were rapidly legalized and very large doses were available to people who are inexperienced with them, took far too much and sometimes wound up in the hospital or in problematic situations."
He says if the Trees restaurant eventually serves cannabis-infused products, it is considering ways for servers familiar with the effects of edible cannabis to monitor patrons.