The Harm Reduction Potential of Vapour Lounges

Article by Mike Zmuda, Lift News

The harm reduction potential of vapour lounges Vapour lounges could encourage healthier consumption habits and result in people using cannabis socially instead of alcohol

Legalization plans are slowly trickling down from provinces as we head into 2018, and so far we know that Ontario and New Brunswick favour the public sector, Manitoba favours the private sector, and Alberta isn’t quite sure yet. One topic that has only seen scant attention is vapour lounges, or more generally: licensed establishments.

Ontario has made it clear they are not seeking to allow any current lounges to remain in operation, and Alberta has a less firm stance, stating they will not provide a mechanism for licensed establishments at the start but are seeking public feedback. Disappointing decisions, given lounges already exist, create jobs, and are desired by cannabis users in the same way licensed alcohol establishments are desired by their clientele.

There are many approaches one can take when looking at the issue of licensed establishments, however one seldom taken is looking at licensed establishments from the perspective of harm reduction.

A harm reduction approach could work with licensed cannabis establishments, even after cannabis is legalized. To fully illustrate how, we need to look at how presently existing lounges operate. Lounges are mostly located in Ontario or BC, and while some have pushed the boundaries of police tolerance in actively selling product, the lounges with the most longevity to date operate on a ‘bring your own product’ model.

Vapour lounge is a bit of a misnomer in reference to presently existing establishments as most do allow smoking of cannabis products, either through rolling papers or water pipes (bongs) / oil rigs. In a transition to a legal system, combusting cannabis will likely need to be prohibited, mostly due to various pieces of anti-smoking legislation. It’s with this nuance that we can start to see principles of harm reduction emerge in licensed establishments.

Studies have shown that vapourizing cannabis creates less harmful byproducts than combusting cannabis, and this is where licensed establishments can begin to facilitate harm reduction. Utilizing point of consumption educational material, licensed establishments can encourage people to choose a less harmful method of ingesting cannabis and guide them in doing so. This is very similar to the point of purchase education that Alberta has proposed.

The model that most current establishments operate under is a daily or monthly membership fee, for which the cannabis consumer will receive use of a desktop vapourizer located in the establishment. The most common of these vapourizers is the Volcano, which can retail for between $600-$900, depending on the model chosen. Comparing these prices with a relatively small membership fee, vapour lounges put a healthier consumption method within far easier financial reach of cannabis consumers.

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