Pubdate: Mon, 22 Jan 2018
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2018 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Shawn Jeffords
Page: A8


Ontario is considering allowing licensed cannabis-consumption lounges
in the province once recreational marijuana is legalized this summer,
and is asking the public to weigh in on the idea.

The proposal is being met with optimism by some cannabis activists and
municipal politicians who say the provincial government's approach on
where legal weed can be consumed has been too restrictive so far.

Under rules outlined in the fall, the province intends to sell
marijuana in up to 150 stores run by the Liquor Control Board of
Ontario to people 19 and older, with a ban on pot's consumption in
public spaces or workplaces.

On Thursday, the province issued a request for public feedback on a
slew of regulatory changes proposed to clarify where recreational and
medical cannabis can be consumed. Among them is the possibility of
permitting "licensed and regulated cannabis consumption lounges and
venues" sometime after legalization in July.

That's exactly what Abi Roach, the owner of Hotbox Cafe, a private
Toronto cannabis lounge open since 2003, said she's been asking the
province to do for six years.

Ms. Roach appeared before a legislative committee examining the
provincial government's pot laws in November and at the time urged
politicians to ease their rules around where the drug could be
consumed. She said she wanted the government to shift from what she
sees as building policy based on "90 years of prohibitionist
mentality" to something that is "functional and realistic to the needs
of the consumer."

Current rules that intend to restrict consumption of marijuana to
private residences will push people who can't use cannabis in their
own homes to places where it would create a problem, such as public
parks or their cars, Ms. Roach argued.

"In an urban setting, you have to take into consideration your
neighbours," she said. "Maybe your neighbour has children. Maybe
they're not really into it. Maybe your neighbour has respiratory
issues. There's no real consideration there for your community."

Ms. Roach said private cannabis lounges such as Hotbox, which is among
seven such establishments in Toronto, see thousands of customers a
month and check IDs to make sure all customers are over the age of 19.
The lounges do not sell marijuana, but may offer equipment for
customers as they consume in a communal setting.

Ms. Roach said a major part of the move to legalize cannabis is to cut
down on criminal activity. Including private businesses, such as
lounge owners, in that regulatory environment will help achieve that
goal, she said.

"People who are in the cannabis business do not want to be criminals,"
she said. "Cannabis consumers don't want to do business with
criminals. In reality, we all want to be licensed."

Ms. Roach also said that the government should not attempt to open its
own government-run cannabis lounges, as it intends to do with
standalone pot shops.

"Do you want to hang out at Kathleen Wynne's lounge?" she asked.
"There has to be a level of innovation in this industry. There has to
be a level of privatization."

The province is accepting feedback on its proposals until March 5.
Comments can be submitted through the Ontario Regulatory Registry website.
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MAP posted-by: Matt