End of an era: BC Ferries smoking ban takes effect this month

New rules from BC Ferries spell the end of a cannabis tradition

A long-standing tradition for BC’s cannabis-inclined coastal commuters is about to be stamped out. As of January 22, there is a complete ban on smoking at terminals and on all ships. The ban was announced in August, along with a ban on travellers remaining in their vehicles when parked on enclosed lower vehicle decks, which went into effect last October.

The motivation for both policy adjustments is safety – those on the lower vehicle decks could be trapped below in the unlikely event that a ship should sink. And fire in any form is generally antithetical to safety, especially when the fire escape is the open ocean. Under the new smoke-free policy, battery-lit pocket vape pens are expressly prohibited too, as are all other means of vaping and smoking, medicinally or otherwise.

BC ferry on open ocean

But as is often the case, the move towards improved safety standards brings with it a move away from fun and casual recreation for many. Although the practice has technically always been prohibited (even for those with federally approved medical exemption), many local cannabis enthusiasts will confirm that in years past, one of the best parts of taking the ferries was firing up a thick joint and enjoying a long, deep draw as the wind whipped across their face. Sidecar motorcycles notwithstanding, it was the closest the average passenger will ever get to the sensation dogs feel when leaning out the passenger window of a car, tongue flapping as it speeds down the highway.

Granted, the turbulent oncoming wind almost always made joints burn unevenly, and would often result in doobies burning down twice as fast, regardless of whether anyone was smoking them or just holding them in the wind. But it was a tradition.

In times of foul weather, renegade cannabists would seek refuge on the vehicle deck for an old-fashioned hotboxing in their cars. While this may still be possible on the higher vehicle decks (no pun intended), doing so contravenes a rule that prohibits smoking of any kind on vehicle decks, a policy that has already been in place for more than a decade.

Nevertheless, scores of intrepid cannabophiles have turned to the privacy of their vehicles for respite from crowds and ferry staff – in many cases to their own detriment, as those who are caught can face legal consequences beyond simple possession. For example, using a torch-lit dab rig in one’s vehicle could constitute public endangerment.

While the natural reaction for many might be to plan on establishing a new tradition of land-based, pre-ferry hotboxing in the vehicle lineups, that too has already been prohibited for years. However this reporter has fond memories of leaving his car in the lineup for a brief walk, to enjoy the tranquility of the beach and shoreline adjacent to the terminal. While not quite the same as sailing with the wind in one’s face, the soft crashing of the shoal and the fresh sea breeze make for a rather nice tradition indeed.

Featured image by KenWalker, kgw@lunar.ca/Wikipedia Commons

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