Pubdate: Wed, 03 Feb 2016
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Column: Higher Ground
Copyright: 2016 C.E.G.W./Times-Shamrock
Author: Larry Gabriel


I've sometimes wondered what the cannabis lounge of the future will 
be like when cannabis connoisseurs don't have to sneak around and 
keep their pleasure on the down low. Will it have the typical bar and 
lounge look? Will it look like a coffeehouse? Will it have a 
psychedelic feel? Will there be overstuffed chairs providing 
something soft and comfortable for customers to settle back into? 
Will there be ferns at the windows while patrons sip chai?

I've been to a place in Holland where there was a guy selling hash 
from a table in the back of a regular bar but never saw any place 
that was specifically catering to a specific cannabis atmosphere.

That's why I found it so intriguing to hear that the Higher Limits 
vape lounge had opened up across the river in Windsor. A public place 
for medical marijuana patients to medicate is pretty much out of the 
question over here. Actually it's pretty rare anywhere. And the 
6,000-square-foot space at 251 Ouellete Ave., is touted by partner 
Jon Liedtke as the largest such place in North America, or possibly the world.

The space is a former bar and it pretty much looks like a bar, except 
there are not bottles of liquor on the shelves. As a matter of fact, 
there is no liquor allowed inside, as a large poster near the front 
entry announces. There are guitar-pick shaped tabletops (left over 
from the former bar space) in the middle of the long room and padded 
booths along one side. The bar sits at one end of the room and a 
stage at the other. Not-so-loud rock and electronic dance music 
create an atmosphere where you can choose to groove to the beat or 
have a conversation with friends.

You have to be 18 and a medical marijuana patient to enter, though no 
one's checking your papers at the door because Canadian law prevents 
that. You have to be 19 to use a vaporizer. There's a head shop 
counter near the front door where papers, pipes, and other 
paraphernalia can be purchased. And just in case your throat gets dry 
there is an array of sodas and teas available for purchase. There are 
also some snack items available in case the munchies hit.

It's Windsor's first and only medical marijuana vape lounge, and it's 
right in the middle of downtown. There is no cannabis sold there, but 
the $5 (I assume Canadian) entry fee allows anyone with a medical 
certification to come in and consume their own cannabis at their 
leisure without having to look over their shoulders. It also allows 
one to use one of several volcano vaporizers in the house, or one of 
the units for oils. Joints, pipes, and one-hitters are allowed. Or 
you can bring your own bong.

Liedtke says the Higher Limits owners are trying to figure out a 
system where people can rent lockers to keep their bongs in so they 
don't have to carry them around. You just can't bring your own bong water in.

Speaking of no water, there is a list of no-no's near the door and 
posted in various places about the room, and in the restrooms. No 
alcohol, no tobacco, no blunts or poppers, no drugs (such as coke, 
heroin, or meth). No selling marijuana. No drunks.

"Respect, that's the only way this place can work," Liedtke says. "We 
need to be on a very transparent basis with the police. ... We want 
to be a strong corporate citizen, a business just like every other 
business on this street." The day I went over was their 11th day in 
business. The night before, the comedy duo Kenny vs. Spenny had 
performed on the stage and nearly 300 people bought tickets at $39 or 
$49 a pop.

That's a big difference from the approximately 125 people Liedtke 
says come in on a given day. But it's programming that will bring in 
the customers. There will be bands. Liedtke plays trumpet in a punk 
rock band called Nefidovs, so he knows music. The Overtime jazz trio 
will perform on Wednesday evenings through February.

He has plans to put in an arcade with actual pinball machines. There 
will be a pool table, yoga classes on Saturday mornings, hair stylist 
events, education about cannabis.

"I'm re-creating what I wanted in my childhood," Liedtke says. "It's 
like my tree house."

He also sells advertising for the Windsor Independent alternative 
paper, but admits that working at Higher Limits, "is a lot more fun."

Liedtke and his partners have half an eye to the future. Prime 
Minister Justin Trudeau was elected last year with a platform that 
included cannabis legalization and has instructed his ministers to 
figure it out. If a place like Higher Limits can walk the fine line 
of what's currently tolerated and stay open, there may be great 
possibilities when prohibition is repealed.

"We don't know what legalization will look like under Justin 
Trudeau," Liedtke says. "It's going to take at least 18 to 24 months. 
That's the optimistic estimate. But I'm excited to be part of our 
industry on the ground floor. The days of cannabis users being hidden 
in a closet are past. We're the first of our kind.

"We're willing to talk openly about cannabis. Obviously the times are 
changing. Cannabis is a multibillion-dollar-a-year industry and 
there's no reason to leave it to bad people. It's really about ending 
the stigma. It's incredibly hard; nobody should feel any form of 
discrimination for being a medical user."

Americans are welcome to come in. Although bringing your own bud 
across the border is a very dangerous proposition.

There will no doubt be marijuana lounges in the future on both sides 
of the border. What they look like will probably be as varied as the 
places people now go to drink alcohol or have coffee. The difference 
is there will probably be a bud list. And they will be catering to 
the cannabis users rather than chasing them away.

Legislative legalization in Vermont

Vermont, the Green Mountain State, may soon be the green bud state. 
The Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee recently approved a bill that 
would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults 
21 and older. The bill has to go to the full Senate and then to the 
state House.

Vermont is already a medical marijuana state, and the plant was 
decriminalized there in 2013, but there is no legal growing or 
distribution system there. The general plan there is to have special 
stores where it can be purchased.

Most loosening of marijuana laws has been through citizen 
initiatives. Vermont is at the front end of an emerging trend of 
legislatures seeing which way the wind is blowing and getting on 
board so they can have some control of what legalization will look 
like in their state.

Fries with that?

Folks around here have nixed the idea of marijuana being available at 
a drive-through facility, but that's what's happening in Oregon. The 
city of Gold Beach, a former timber boom town, is allowing the first 
dispensary with a drive-through window. It's not clear whether 
edibles will be sold at the facility, which owners say was 
deliberately located near a hospital so patients can easily find an 
alternative to prescription painkillers.

Pres says no

There has been plenty of speculation that President Barack Obama (who 
admittedly got high as a teenager) might reschedule marijuana or do 
something significant in easing prohibition. Well the president has 
said that marijuana is not on the list of his end-of-term priorities. 
I guess that says it all.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom