‘Canna curious’ ex-politician wants to try infused dining

Published on April 22, 2023 by David Wylie

Fancy appetizer Photo: Adobe/the oz.
Cannabis consumption spaces are being considered by provinces, including BC. Dining experiences are on the table.

Michelle Mungall is ready to try cannabis tourism—if the conditions are right.

A former BC economic development minister, Mungall says she dabbled with weed in high school. Now that the ex-Nelson-Creston NDP MLA is on the other side of political life, she says she has two kids and sometimes needs to unwind.

“I’m canna curious,” she says, adding she’d like to experiment with cannabis in a safe environment, like a licensed cannabis restaurant.

That kind of establishment, however, doesn’t exist because current regulations don’t allow for it. The province of BC is in the process of considering regulatory changes to allow cannabis consumption spaces.

Mungall, who left politics in 2020, is now a principal at consulting firm GT and Company. She moderated a feature panel on cannabis tourism and economic development at the BC Cannabis Summit on Friday.

She told the audience that cannabis regulations are out of balance and stifling economic growth.

BC bud struggling

Tara Kirkpatrick, President of the BC Craft Farmers Co-op, told the crowd in her opening address that once-renowned BC bud is no longer thriving in post-legalization.

“It’s in really bad trouble,” she says. “The people who fought for legalization are shut out.”

Nelson-Creston MLA Brittny Anderson, a longtime cannabis advocate, was on the panel. She says BC Premier David Eby wants to see the cannabis industry succeed.

“I actually have cannabis in my mandate letter,” she says.

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Anderson says she saw first-hand the economic impact cannabis had in the Kootenay region of the province. When there were downturns, such as in the forestry industry, people turned to cannabis.

Anderson is parliamentary secretary for tourism as well as the premier’s special advisor on youth.

“The opportunities for cannabis tourism are really just getting started,” she says. “Cannabis tourism in BC has the potential to become a major industry.”

Five years ago, the general public wasn’t ready for consumption spaces, Anderson says.

“There was fear that cannabis was going to legalize and the sky was going to fall,” she says.

Indigenous cannabis needs support

Teresa Ryder, with the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, says they’re just starting to explore the possibilities of cannabis tourism.

“We know the opportunity is on the horizon,” she says.

The organization represents 1,900 Indigenous tourism businesses.

Marc Storms, cannabis policy analyst with BC First Nations Leadership Council, encouraged people to partner with and invest in Indigenous businesses.

Smoking joints at the side of the highway

Some in the cannabis tourism industry say changes aren’t coming fast enough.

Anne Marie Locas, owner of Okanagan Cannabis Tours, told the panel during the Q&A that there are few places where her tour guests can get out to smoke joints. She says they spark up in parking lots or pull off into ministry of transportation stops.

“Is it really safe to be sitting by Highway 97 with a bunch of stoners?” she asked.