North

Yellowknife bars face 'uncharted territory' as they adjust to cannabis legalization

Now that cannabis is legal, some provinces are updating alcohol service training programs to help bar staff recognize when patrons are high. But it’s unclear whether the Northwest Territories is doing the same.

It's unclear whether N.W.T. is updating liquor service training to include info on cannabis

Miranda Stevens is co-owner of The Woodyard Brewhouse and Eatery in Yellowknife. 'If there is something specific … that the liquor board wants us to be doing now that cannabis is legal, we haven't been instructed by them to make any of these changes.' (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

Now that cannabis is legal, at least one province is updating alcohol service training programs to help bar staff recognize when patrons are high — but it's unclear whether the Northwest Territories will be doing the same.

This month, British Columbia revised its mandatory course on the responsible service of alcohol to include a section on identifying patrons impaired by alcohol and cannabis. 

"If there is something specific … that the liquor board wants us to be doing now that cannabis is legal, we haven't been instructed by them to make any of these changes," said Miranda Stevens, co-owner of The Woodyard Brewhouse and Eatery in Yellowknife.

"This is just uncharted territory for everyone."

In the Northwest Territories, it's against the law to sell or serve alcohol to an intoxicated person, be that person under the influence of alcohol, cannabis or another drug.

The N.W.T.'s Department of Finance offers liquor service training that covers over-serving and the signs of intoxication from alcohol and other substances, said spokesperson Todd Sasaki in an email.

Sasaki did not directly answer a question about whether information on cannabis impairment is being integrated into that training.

A sign points to the smoking area at The Woodyard Brewhouse and Eatery in Yellowknife. Co-owner Miranda Stevens says people aren't allowed to smoke cannabis there. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

Stevens said her staff are instructed to follow the Liquor Act and watch out for signs of intoxication.

If a patron is under the influence of cannabis, she said, it will affect how much alcohol they can safely drink.

The Woodyard has decided not to allow cannabis in its designated smoking area.

"I just don't think you should mix two substances," said Stevens.

'Intoxication is intoxication'

People who go to bars while on drugs is nothing new, and most bar owners in Yellowknife say they aren't changing their criteria for judging intoxication in this new era of legal weed.

"Intoxication is intoxication," whether a guest is drunk, high or both, said Jason Perrino, co-owner of Twist and Shout bar and restaurant.

Jason Perrino says he won't serve people who show signs of intoxication. (Andrew Pacey/CBC)

"It doesn't really matter what the substance is [that] you're intoxicated with. If you can't walk, you can't talk or be responsible for yourself, or there's a risk, then you just won't get served," he said.

Perrino said signs of intoxication include stumbling and swaying, glassy eyes and squinting, falling asleep, speaking loudly, slurred speech and smelling of alcohol or cannabis.

If a patron smells of cannabis, but is not showing other signs of intoxication, Perrino said he would be comfortable serving that person a drink.

"Although they smoked a joint, they're not intoxicated in a sense that they can't continue to party ... or enjoy themselves or enjoy the evening," he said.

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