Ontario’s Bill 45 poses threat to medical cannabis patients & vapor lounges

Gonzo Nieto

An Ontario legislative committee is currently considering Bill 45, a piece of legislation whose stated purpose is to enhance public health. However, a close reading of the bill’s “Electronic Cigarettes Act” uncovers prohibitionist policies which will impose significant limits on some medical cannabis patients and may put vapor lounges in the province at risk.

Though the title might suggest that the legislation specifically targets tobacco and nicotine products, the act is written to apply to any vaporizer, regardless of the substance being vaporized. This definition significantly extends the act’s reach, implicating medical cannabis patients who vaporize as well as vapor lounges. The act applies specifically to the sale of vaporizers, and not to the sale of substances which are vaporized.

To begin with, the bill prohibits stores which sell vaporizers from allowing customers to view or handle a vaporizer prior to purchasing it. The vendor is also prohibited from speaking to the customer about the vaporizer in any way that might be construed as creating an awareness or encouraging the purchase of a vaporizer.

These policies, the same that are currently in place for the sale of cigarettes, are entirely misplaced in the context of vaporizers, a device that essentially consists of a battery and a button and is sold separately from cannabis oils and electronic cigarette liquids.

Medical marijuana patients, and users of vaporizers and electronic cigarettes in general, need to consult someone knowledgeable and be able to explore different options prior to making a purchase, much the same way one can look at, handle, and ask questions about a vacuum cleaner or laptop prior to buying it. However, this bill will force medical patients and other customers of electronic cigarettes to make a completely blind purchase of up to several hundred dollars for a piece of equipment they know little about and have never seen.

In addition to limiting the consumer’s access and information to vaporizers, the bill outright prohibits use of vaporizers in all enclosed public places, workplaces, common spaces of condos and apartment buildings, vehicles carrying anyone under 16, and seating sections of any sports arenas and entertainment venues. It additionally tasks employers with enforcing this ban and removing from the workplace anyone who refuses to comply.

Once again, policy that is currently in place for cigarettes, which give off toxic second-hand smoke, is not necessarily relevant to or suitable for the use of vaporizers and electronic cigarettes, which do not give off smoke. This is the entire point of vaporizers—they reach a temperature that releases the active ingredients in a vapour without requiring combustion.

The bill also fails to account for the impact it will have on medical cannabis patients who vaporize. Vaporizing is the preferred delivery method for many patients who use medical cannabis to manage a range of conditions and symptoms. However, these restrictions will create many obstacles in the lives of these patients by unnecessarily limiting where they can take their medicine.

If passed, the bill may also threaten the existence of Ontario’s vapor lounges altogether, as they are included in the definition of “enclosed public spaces” where vaporizers may not be used. Considering the act takes no issue with the existence of shisha bars, it is fundamentally illogical for them to prohibit the existence of a similar type of venue, where all present are consenting adults consuming a less harmful substance using a less harmful method of ingestion.

It is hardly conceivable how these particular measures will promote public health. Rather, it can be argued that this act’s excessive restrictions will serve to impair aspects of public health by placing significant limitations on medical cannabis patients and threatening the existence of vapor lounges which provide unique community spaces.

Ontario’s Standing Committee on General Government will be holding public hearings for this bill on April 20, 21, and 22. If you live nearby, show up with some friends! If you cannot attend but still want to make yourself heard, you can submit your comments in writing to the committee’s Clerk, Silwia Przezdziecki, at sprzezdziecki@ola.org before 5:00 pm on April 22.