Pubdate: Sat, 17 Feb 2018
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Tyler Dawson
Page: D1


The mayor is wrong on allowing legal pot cafes, and here's why

Mayor Jim Watson won't support the idea of legal lounges where people
can smoke pot.

That's not even remotely surprising: Watson's a cautious, conservative
mayor when it comes to social policy. He doesn't want to make it
easier for anyone to smoke anything in lounges.

If his view wins the day, there won't really be anywhere in Ottawa to
smoke pot, because politicians at Queen's Park have banned smoking
marijuana in public places.

The only place where you'll legally be allowed to smoke marijuana is
in your home. This is rather likely to cause a substantial problem for
landlords and apartment dwellers, who would have to put up with the
stoner next door making the entire establishment smell like a skunk
run over by a semi truck.

Now, not to get too philosophical here, but the harmonious functioning
of society requires each of us to go about our business in ways that
negatively affect the lives of others as minimally as possible.

In other words, it's just plain polite to step away from a doorway
while smoking a cigarette, in addition to that being the law. When it
comes to marijuana - a substance I find significantly more noxious
than tobacco smoke - the polite thing to do is to smoke where it will
least affect your neighbours and fellow citizens. Now, where might
that be? Aha! A smoking lounge.

If we agree that smoking marijuana on a city street is obnoxious
(which it is, even if it shouldn't be illegal) and if we agree that
there is some level of grossness to fumigating a communal living
space, such as an apartment (which there is) then the obvious solution
is to have people who engage in this disruptive behaviour, as much as
possible, congregate in an area where said disruptive behaviour is
least likely to be disruptive.

Which is to say … a smoking lounge.

Not only will this help maintain a more harmonious, less putrid
society, it will also avoid the complications of police or bylaw
officers confronting marijuana smokers who light up in public. It will
also minimize - to some extent, this is imperfect - the smoking issues
landlords and neighbours deal with.

This, for a politician, would be an admittedly awkward proposition
because it raises the very good question of why pot lounges, but not
cigarettes or cigars or hookah lounges? Quebec has cigar lounges, for
example, and business owners should get to make their own choices
about hookahs, cigars, pipes, bongs, cigarettes - you name it.

In an ideal world, the whole marijuana brouhaha will lead to a
backlash against government busybodies who think they know best for
regular people who want to smoke, or who are willing to work in
environments that aren't altogether healthy.

Because that's where this battle could be lost: Those who would be
employed in marijuana lounges. "This would also put the health of
workers at risk by inhaling second-hand smoke," a statement from Livia
Belcea in Watson's office said.

It's an old play, hearkening back to the heady days when the
anti-smoking movement had started to win its crusade. Never mind that
people have choices in society, such as where to work and what they'll
tolerate in said workplace.

The larger point is that smoking lounges solve far, far more problems
than they create. Even now, Ontario landlords are asking government
for the ability to ban pot smoking, even in leases already signed.
And, in Colorado, where public smoking is banned, it has caused
trouble with police going after those who have nowhere else to smoke.

Smoking lounges, while not eliminating these problems, would help
mitigate the unpleasant side effects of marijuana legalization.

This may not matter to those who own their houses - but to the rest of
us, keeping the smoke somewhere else is a quality-of-life question,
and Watson, with the position he holds, is going to make things worse,
not better.
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