Esquimalt wants to ban bong mascot

Esquimalt is looking into a bylaw that would regulate the use of mascots, while also checking whether the municipality can ban a “bong” mascot from the township’s streets.

Only Coun. Lynda Hundleby voted against the motion, which calls on staff to research bylaw options regarding mascots. While there is merit to discouraging anything contrary to the image of a family-friendly town, Hundleby said she didn’t believe any regulation would withstand a court challenge. A bong is a pipe typically used for smoking marijuana.

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“A bong in and of itself is a legal device. Tobacco used in a pipe is legal, as is medical marijuana,” she said, adding that stores that sell bongs are also legal.

The mascot issue was brought up by Coun. Tim Morrison, after the Bong Warehouse deployed a mascot dressed as a bong after opening on Esquimalt Road in December.

Morrison said he received more complaints from residents about the mascot than about sewage.

Coun. Meagan Brame said the mascot does not fall in line with Esquimalt’s strategic plan for healthy living.

Council also approved a motion to seek legal advice on banning the bong mascot while staff research bylaws.

“We want to put a stop to the bong mascot but it depends on what the staff finds is legal,” Brame said. “There are illegal activities associated with marijuana and not everyone wants to have to explain that issue to their kids walking by.”

A ban could be based on the fact bongs can be used to smoke tobacco, the advertising of which is heavily restricted by the province.

“This mascot is a smoking device and it’s a smoking device being advertised in a public space in contravention to the Tobacco Control Act,” Morrison said.

Ryan Place, the owner of Bong Warehouse, said he feels he’s being unfairly attacked.

“The bongs are not used for tobacco, they are used for medicinal marijuana,” Place said, noting he has never received a direct complaint about his mascot.

“I found out about all this in the news,” he said.

Place said the mascot costume has only been used half a dozen times.

Many people are happy to meet the mascot and often want their picture taken with it, Place said.

He acknowledged that anything regarding marijuana has been controversial, “for like 100 years,” but said his store provides alternatives to smoking and prescription pain medication.

He also noted that mascots for fast food restaurants do not exactly endorse healthy living.

He does not think the ban or bylaw will pass. “It’s a waste of taxpayer money,” he said, but will respond to city hall with either a letter or attendance at a future meeting.

The dispute over the mascot is not the first time Place has butted heads with Esquimalt since he opened his shop. Place parked a truck on the street with Christmas lights and a large sign advertising his bongs. The township forced him to take it down.

spetrescu@timescolonist.com

bcleverley@timescolonist.com 

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