After six years of lobbying on behalf of cannabis lounge owners in Ontario, the province is finally considering licensing and regulating marijuana consumption venues to prepare for recreational legalization this summer.
On Jan. 18, the province announced it is seeking public feedback on various regulatory changes to its proposed cannabis framework. One of those major considerations is allowing specific licensed venues like the extremely popular Hotbox Cafe in Toronto’s Kensington Market to be a safe-haven where tokers can enjoy marijuana in peace.
Under the current proposed rules, the province will have a monopoly on cannabis sales and the consumption of marijuana will be banned in public spaces or workplaces.
The problem with a prohibition on public consumption in this way is that people who live in shared spaces like condos and apartment buildings are potentially infringing on others when they consume. Furthermore, some people simply can’t smoke at home because family members may not approve or they may have children and do not want to consume in front of them.
“In an urban setting you have to take into consideration your neighbors,” said Abi Roach to Toronto’s legislative committee in November. “Maybe your neighbor has children. Maybe they’re not really into it. Maybe your neighbor has respiratory issues. There’s no real consideration there for your community.”
Another challenge presents itself by way of tourism. Undoubtedly many of the tourists who come to Canada’s largest city will want to partake in some Canadian-made marijuana. Most hotels in Toronto do not allow smoking on the property, which will force visitors to smoke outdoors in public places if lounges are not afforded to them.
Roach added that if the government’s goal is truly to wipe out the black market, lounges and other venues can be of assistance. “People who are in the cannabis business do not want to be criminals. Cannabis consumers don’t want to do business with criminals. In reality, we all want to be licensed,” she said.
The government of Ontario is accepting feedback on cannabis lounges and other marijuana regulation until March 5 on the Ontario Regulatory Registry website.