Pubdate: Fri, 09 Dec 2016
Source: Metro (Calgary, CN AB)
Copyright: 2016 Metro Canada
Contact:  http://www.metronews.ca/Calgary
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/4471
Author: Helen Pike
Page: 3

POT TOURISM HANGING IN THE BALANCE

Would-be weed entrepreneurs await federal framework

Although not clear how pot legalization will go down, Albertans are
already planning to piggyback business on the marijuana economy.

In Colorado, when pot was decriminalized in the state, their local
tourism board didn't touch the stuff, because it's not federally
legal. Yet if you plan a trip to the toking state, there are many
services purporting to be 420 friendly.

And according to Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kathleen
Ganley, because of the state's restrictions on smoking outside, and of
course, in restaurants, they quickly found the edibles market exploding.

That one legislative example can give you an idea of how many
different scenarios could play out for small businesses, depending on
how the government legalizes weed.

There are still a lot of unknowns: whether regular businesses will be
able to carry pot products, or if it will take a specialized licence
for weed dispensary type shops.

"These are the sorts of things we need to be thoughtful about," Nenshi
told reporters last week after the release of a Metro ThinkHQ poll
about Albertans pot preferences.

"From a very practical point of view, if this actually creates a new
craft industry, or small business, that's not a bad thing in this
economy - we just have to figure out the right way to do it to ensure
people's safety."

But when it comes to niche markets, and diversifying the economy,
Ganley says places like Colorado only saw a small bump in GDP. And
because Alberta would be competing with the rest of Canada for tourism
dollars, it's still unclear how weed legalization will play out.

"Certainly, an industry is likely to develop, the federal government
will have some piece of regulation of it, and the province will have a
piece," she said. "It would be an additional industry, potentially¬Ö
every little bit counts, but it didn't make a huge (economic) impact
in Colorado."

A report published in October by the Marijuana Policy Group, an
economic and market research firm that has University of Colorado
researchers, however, stated Colorado reaped a $2.39-billion economic
reward tied to the marijuana economy.

In Victoria, there's already a pocket of tourism to attract a host of
pot connoisseurs - at their own risk. As the Canadian Press reported,
possession is still illegal, but "vapour lounges" still welcome
patrons to bring their own goods, sit down, and enjoy a toke.

And the same sort of culture is bubbling in Calgary, although in a
more underground fashion. There's already one "toking lounge" in the
city, but it's held in a private home and is the head office for the
Calgary Cannabis Society. There, Lisa Kirkman said both medicinal
users, and recreational, can enjoy a safe space to consume cannabis,
and take a dab from their "dab bar."

"If you don't have a culture that's acceptable to anyone, other than
hanging out in your buddy's basement, or even out in the alleyway, or
in a park or something like that, you don't have cannabis tourism, "
said Kirkman. "Whether or not you have places to buy marijuana here,
it's pretty irrelevant."

She said no one has had a problem buying marijuana in Calgary, but
what's going to bring in tourism, it's the place to use it, and the
people to use it with.

The lounge security checks that people entering are 18 or older,
unless they have a medical licence. They don't buy or sell anything on
the premises and alcohol is not permitted.

Their methods are similar to a very public toke lounge in Ottawa,
which actually opened in 2015 and shut down the same summer due to
smoking bylaw changes. That space ran based on a membership fee, which
allowed users to enter the storefront and smoke their own cannabis.
Then, users had access to board games, video games and
vapourizers.

According to Calgary police, they will continue to enforce the current
letter of the law, and won't be turning a blind eye.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt