To better understand the perception among the public of cannabis consumption spaces, British Columbia’s Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General recently released its 2022 What We Heard Report, which includes findings related to public opinion concerning possible licensed cannabis consumption spaces in the province.
The report, based on a survey of Indigenous partners, stakeholders, and people living in British Columbia, was launched in the Spring of 2022 and reveals an interesting discrepancy concerning results, depending on the form of the response, as the survey was conducted online and via telephone with written responses accepted as well. For instance, most telephone respondents were in favour of licensed cannabis consumption spaces, including cannabis consumers (84%) and non-cannabis users (48%), while just 34% of those who provided their responses online expressed their support for such spaces.
In addition, the report cites the fact that those who provided their responses online expressed strong opinions and attitudes concerning the topic of consumption spaces, revealing that 94% of cannabis consumers support the spaces, with just 9% of those who do not consume cannabis in favour of such spaces.
Authors of the report suggest that “differences between results from the telephone and online surveys may be partly due to the research methods used, with the online survey at greater risk of self-selection bias (i.e., participation from people who feel strongly either for or against cannabis consumption spaces) whereas telephone survey respondents were selected via random sampling.”
Informing Future Policies
Despite the discrepancies within the report, Mike Farnworth, BC’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, says that the feedback gathered will play a critical role in informing any future policies and strategies that might be employed in order to advance the growth of the industry.
“Health and safety are our utmost priorities as we consider how provincial cannabis policies could evolve,” he says. “This report provides valuable insights into people in BC’s perspectives on cannabis and will help guide our work to support a strong, diverse, and safe legal cannabis sector across the Province.”
“Exploring the feasibility of cannabis-consumption spaces is another way BC is working to support the success of the industry,” adds Brittny Anderson, Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism in the province. “With the recent introduction of a licence for farm-gate sales, understanding public opinion on cannabis-related hospitality and agri-tourism activities is a practical next step. The feedback in this report will play an important role in the development of provincial policies.”
Visiting Consumption Spaces
In addition, in order to holistically understand public perception among the public concerning licensed cannabis consumption spaces, respondents were asked whether or not they’d frequent such spaces with the intent to purchase and consume cannabis products, if they were permitted within the province. Of those who responded via telephone, 53% of cannabis consumers said that they would visit a consumption space versus 22% of those who do not consume cannabis. And, online responses seem stronger, with 78% of cannabis consumers stating that they’d be willing to visit a consumption space opposed to 0% of non-cannabis consumers.
Respondents to the online portion of the survey were asked additional questions to help round out the report. These additional findings indicate that there are a number of different spaces that consumers of cannabis products would like to visit in order to purchase and enjoy cannabis, including cannabis cafes or lounges (94%), festivals and events (80%), food and drink businesses (79%), and cannabis-secondary businesses that allow for the sale and use of cannabis (84%).
Further, when asked which type of space they were most interested in purchasing and consuming cannabis in, half of the respondents (50%) cited cannabis cafes or lounges, with festivals and events (18%), food and drink businesses (14%), and cannabis-secondary businesses (12%) also selected.
With respect to demographics, online respondents did not seem to offer very much support for the proposal of public licensed cannabis consumption spaces, with 42% of those aged 19 to 44, 79% of those aged 45 to 64, and 82% of those aged 65 or older strongly opposed to the idea. And, when considering gender, men are generally more supportive of consumption spaces, with 48% strongly supporting their permission within the province versus just 25% of women showing the same support.
There are, of course, concerns among the public concerning these types of consumption spaces, with the report highlighting the most pressing for those who do not consume cannabis, which include fears over impaired driving (66%), intoxication (51%), smell (46%), the diminishing of neighbourhood character (43%), the encouragement of smoking or vaping (37%), the encouragement of cannabis use (32%), and excessive noise (21%). Some respondents offered additional concerns that were not listed as survey selection choices, including the potential impact of consumption spaces on children and youth (3.3%), increased public health costs due to health impacts on those that use cannabis (2.1%), and broader public health impacts, including second-hand smoke (2%).
When it comes to potential opportunities that are directly linked to the permission of legal cannabis consumption spaces, whether in support or opposition to the idea, most respondents are able to identify them clearly, with cannabis consumers versus non-cannabis consumers recognizing the following results as somewhat or very likely: use as socialization spaces (93% v 78%), support for local business (94% v 67%), creation of jobs (91% v 66%), education concerning responsible use (81% v 52%), education concerning products (90% v 78%), reduction of negative stigma (89% v 73%), and the shifting of use into private spaces (71% v 57%).
The report concludes that support and interest among the public in British Columbia for the permission of licensed cannabis consumption spaces is “largely dependent on whether a person uses cannabis”, which could likely have been suspected ahead of its launch. However, the meaningful insights concerning the types of spaces people might be interested in visiting, the concerns that some have related to the possible permission of such spaces, as well as the opportunities that might result from such an initiative will serve policy-makers well as they move forward in an effort to continue supporting a strong and diverse cannabis industry within the province.