Cannabis Lounges in Canada: Ontario Government Requests for Public Feedback as Marijuana Legalization Gets Closer
The Ontario Government is considering allowing cannabis lounges in Canada. The recreational use of marijuana will become legal in Canada in July of 2018.
The provincial government has been seeking public opinions on this idea.
In Fall of 2017, the provincial government outlined rules for the sales of cannabis. The provincial government plans to sell cannabis in 150 stores through the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.
Buyers must be at least 19 years old, and it would be illegal for them to consume marijuana in workplaces and public spaces.
Some municipal politicians and cannabis activists are being very optimistic about this proposal but say the provincial government has been too strict about the legal consumption of marijuana when announced.
On 18 January 2018, the Ontario Government issued a public request to provide feedback for regulatory changes related to the medical and recreational consumption of marijuana.
The regulatory changes include the possibility of allowing cannabis lounges in Canada once weed is legal in Canada in July.
Owner of Hotbox Café Abi Roach said she has been asking the provincial government to open cannabis lounges in Canada for the last six years. Her private cannabis lounge has been operating in Toronto since 2003.
In November 2017, Abi Roach appeared before a legislative committee that was working on the cannabis consumption laws of Ontario. On this occasion, she encouraged politicians to relax the laws which were related to spots for marijuana consumption. She said that the government should now shift from the 90 years old prohibitionist mentality and move towards something functional which is realistic to the needs of the consumer.
Roach argued that the current rules restrict people to use marijuana only at their homes. Those who cannot consume cannabis at their homes will be pushed to consume it in locations like cars or public parks, where it will create problems.
She further went on to say that one has to take into consideration their neighbours in the modern urban setting.
Your neighbour could have children or they simply may not appreciate the smell of cannabis. It is also possible the neighbour has respiratory problems. In other words, she mentions the current rules do not take into consideration of the surrounding community.
Abi Roach said that Hotbox is one of the only cannabis lounges in Canada, and there are total seven such lounges operating in Toronto. Every month, thousands of customers visit Hotbox, and their IDs are checked to ensure all of them are over 19 years.
According to Roach, one of the reasons to legalize marijuana in Canada is that the government wants to reduce criminal activity. She said that inclusion of private businesses in the regulatory environment, especially lounge owners, will be helpful to achieve that target. People involved in the marijuana business do not want to become criminals, and consumers of marijuana do not want to do business with criminals.
In fact, all of them want to be licensed.
She went on to say that the government should not try to open government-run cannabis lounges in Canada the way it plans to run standalone marijuana shops. Roach argued that not everyone wants to spend time at “Kathleen Wynne’s lounge” and that the cannabis industry should have some innovation, which is only possible with some level of privatization.
The city’s licensing and standards committee also includes Jim Karygiannis, who is one of the City of Toronto’s councillor. He said that the province should make clear regulations that would result in better control for the establishment of cannabis lounges in Canada. The regulations should also ensure the safety of lounge employees and that patrons are of legal age.
He also said that province should ensure that cannabis lounges are located far from the schools.
Karygiannis further said that a private lounge is a good alternative provided it is legal and follows regulations. The municipality should be allowed to have some type of involvement. In case, cannabis lounges are not regulated, then the situation will get out of control.
Andrew Rudyk, the spokesman for the Attorney General of Ontario, Yasir Naqvi, pointed out that the provincial government has adopted a cautious approach when the legalization of marijuana hits Canada in July.
According to Rudyk, the Ontario Government does plans to make immediate changes. The government is using this opportunity to get prior feedback before it moves to the next stage of legalization for cannabis lounges in Canada. He further said that the provincial government will continue to seek consultation for decisions that are still to be made.
The Ontario Government is accepting feedback on the proposal of cannabis lounges in Canada until March 5th, 2018. People can submit their feedback on the website of Ontario’s Regulatory Registry.