Canada’s highly anticipated and largely unprecedented move to legalize recreational marijuana countrywide is coming quick, and the country’s cannabis businesses are doing their best to gear up for the monumental shift. In Toronto, proprietors of the city’s long-standing unregulated cannabis lounges are trying to get their piece of the newly regulated pie.
According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Cannabis Friendly Business Association is planning to submit a request to Toronto's Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee to hopefully take the on-site consumption lounges mainstream.
Arguing that tourists, renters and parents would have no place to legally consume their newly regulated cannabis under the new laws, business owners say that their lounges create safe spaces for marijuana use, and should be licensed like the rest of the country’s impending canna-businesses.
"You also have to think of parents with children or those living with elderly people or people with respiratory problems or tourists.” Abi Roach, owner of the Roach-O-Rama and Hotbox Café, said. Where are tourists going to smoke cannabis? In their non-smoking hotel rooms?"
Like similar debates in America’s legal weed hubs, opponents of the cannabis lounges have expressed displeasure with the idea of any sort of smoke inside. And while Toronto’s lounges are members only that carry door fees and largely allow only vaping indoors and smoking on outdoor patios, those distinctions are lost on detractors.
"You've seen that 30 years ago people were allowed to smoke in offices.” Councilor Glenn De Baeremaeker, who sits on the Toronto licensing committee said. “They're not allowed to smoke there anymore but despite that I don't see our offices overrun with office workers smoking higgly-piggly in every single park."
But office workers smoking “higgly-piggly” or not, Roach says that one of her lounges brings in 10,000 visitors a month, and has been doing so for almost 20 years, even without regulations. And while De Baeremaeker is staunch in his opposition, he does not represent the entire Council, with committee members like Jim Karygiannis supporting the request.
"Having cannabis culture in spaces that are not a monopoly, that are owned by normal people who can serve the community best will keep street crime down and street consumption down. So it's an excellent way of reducing crime and reducing public nuisance," Roach said.
The Cannabis Friendly Business Association will present their case to the Municipal Licensing Committee on Monday.