Pubdate: Sat, 23 Dec 2017
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Authors: Jenna Valleriani and Abi Roach
Page: A12


Licensing vapour lounges would enhance safety, say Jenna Valleriani
and Abi Roach.

If you've been following the plans for cannabis legalization across
Canada, one of the key concerns is not just how it will be sold, but
where exactly people will be allowed to consume cannabis.

Not in parks, or in the streets, certainly not in restaurants or even
in places where there are existing tobacco allowances. In Ontario, the
proposed legislation boils down to this: The only place we can consume
legal cannabis will be in the privacy of our homes.

While the Ontario government has not shut the door on safe cannabis
consumption spaces, more commonly referred to as vapour lounges, they
also have indicated no real movement on the issue, at least for now.

While coming at this issue from different experiences - one of us has
owned a cannabis lounge for 15 years in downtown Toronto, and the
other researches cannabis policy - we do agree that the exclusion of
any allowable spaces aside from one's home is not only a matter of
public health, but ultimately tied to larger issues of social justice.

If Ontarians are only able to consume in their homes, then what about
those who rent, are under-housed or homeless, live in apartments,
condos, social housing or live in a home they simply don't own?

Does this include patios, balconies and backyards? Landlords, in many
cases, will almost certainly prohibit indoor consumption, and condo
boards and social housing regulators have been rushing to update their
rules and policies around this issue, typically focused on extending
restrictions to legal cannabis. This also has had important
implications for legal medical cannabis patients.

Additionally, what about parents, who may occasionally like to
responsibly consume cannabis but have children at home? Are we really
going to demand they only use cannabis inside their homes?

Licensing and regulating vapour lounges should be prioritized as safe
and responsible policy, creating places that adults can visit, bring
their cannabis and use it safely.

Rather than leaving adults to risk police-citizen contact for what
will be a legal substance, we should be giving cannabis consumers a
place outside of their homes to legally consume.

Further, while many of us don't own our homes, the next personally
owned and private space is often cars. The proposed legislations as it
stands may unintentionally shift consumption into vehicles for people
who can't consume the legal substance in their homes, or if they have
children, don't want to consume in their homes.

Places such as Colorado, one of the first states to legalize cannabis
in the U.S., also grappled with this issue. Under a similar
consumption restriction, one of the only places Colorado citizens in
many cities could consume their cannabis was in their private residences.

Denver, as just one example, saw a 471-per-cent increase in ticketing
for public consumption because there was nowhere for people to use
legal cannabis. Those tickets, of course, disproportionately target
racialized and vulnerable populations, and also left many people with
legal weed in a situation where they technically couldn't use it anywhere.

Remember, cannabis lounges currently exist in pockets all across
Ontario, and are used by a diverse population. They don't serve
alcohol, there is no selling of cannabis (meaning individuals bring
their own), there is no tobacco use, and only allow people in who are
18 or 19 years of age and older.

There are important considerations around vapour lounges and their
intersection in Ontario with anti-smoking legislation, particularly
around worker rights, but still, we need to address this issue by
leveraging the realities of other jurisdictions that have been pushed
to find solutions.

Legalization should include considerations for all Ontarians to safely
use without risk, not just those who own their homes or don't have

There are ways to implement sensible rules around their existence that
are both socially responsible and in the best interests of the public.

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Jenna Valleriani is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto, and 
her research focuses on cannabis policy and emerging cannabis markets in 
Canada. Abi Roach is the owner of North America's longest-running vapour 
lounge, the Hot Box, in Toronto.
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