Golfers may be restricted from using marijuana at some golf courses, and pot could be offered for sale at others. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)

Dealing with smoking pot on fairways

Legalization is weeks away, how will golf courses regulate marijuana?

Every other golf foursome will have a person who wants to smoke pot out on the course.

That was just one of the findings of a golf marijuana survey conducted by B.C. Golf and Inside Golf, and it has the industry talking about what will happen next month, when recreational use of marijuana becomes law.

The law will change on Oct. 17, and in anticipation of that, B.C. Golf, the official association of the sport in the province, polled golf courses and participants in the sport. In total, it heard from 56 facilities across western Canada and 5,466 golfers.

It found that 75 per cent of facilities do not have a marijuana policy in place now, but 60 per cent of facilities are likely to allow use on their courses.

Troy Peverley, general manager for Swaneset Bay Resort and Country Club in Pitt Meadows, said the West Coast Golf Group will have to set a policy for the local course, as well as Belmont and Hazelmere, which it also owns, and is looking at the issue seriously.

“Each golf course is going to have to determine what the rules are,” said Peverley.

He expects golfers will find different courses will have varying levels of tolerance. He expects people do smoke pot on the course now, but it has not caused problems.

“We don’t get many complaints. I can’t remember the last time I heard a complaint about the smell, or anything else.”

Peverley said a course could potentially lose customers regardless of which way it decides to approach an issue.

“We’re certainly looking for feedback from our customers,” he said.

About half of the facilities surveyed (53 per cent) plan to have a similar policy as for smoking tobacco.

What’s more, 27 per cent said they would consider selling marijuana, just as they sell alcohol from a beer cart, if they were permitted to do so.

“We certainly haven’t considered that yet,” said Peverley

Of the almost 5,500 golfers polled, 63 per cent are members at a club and 37 per cent are daily fee players. The vast majority were from B.C. (97 per cent), with the rest from Alberta, and 85 per cent were 55 or older.

One-in-seven golfers said they plan to smoke marijuana on a golf course.

This rises to half for those under the age of 35, and drops to less than one-in-10 for those 55 and older.

Some 60 per cent said they are uncomfortable with anyone smoking marijuana on a golf course.

The age split again arose on the issue of being comfortably paired with someone smoking marijuana on the golf course.

For those under 35, it was 75 per cent, and for 35-54 it was half, and over-55 was just 25 per cent.

At the Maple Ridge Golf Course, manager Debra Camara said there are more issues for facilities to consider as an employer. For example, an employee with a prescription to use medicinal cannabis may request to use it at work.

She said it is an “older crowd” at most golf courses, and she plans to not allow smoking marijuana on the patio or near crowds to avoid disrupting customers.

Rather than setting a policy, she will not anticipate problems, and deal with issues as they arise.

Camara said she has never heard a complaint about marijuana smoking at the course, yet.

“We’ll see how it plays out,” she said. “It’s one step at a time.”

According to the recent poll, 80 per cent of golfers who are members at clubs would like to have input into decisions regarding marijuana use at their club. This rises to 88 per cent for those planning to smoke.

Three-quarters of golfers do not think marijuana should be smoked within viewing distance of junior players.

Some 90 per cent of those planning to smoke marijuana on the course view it as the same as drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco or cigars.

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