Canada: Ontario Considers Licensing Cannabis Lounges

Photo Credit: Brennan Linsley

Ontario is considering licensing lounges where people can consume marijuana when the drug becomes legal across Canada, according to regulations published by the province for public comment.

The province also wants the public to weigh in on the idea of apartment and condo owners being allowed to designate areas outside where residents could smoke or vape.

The proposals modify the province’s plan to ban marijuana use in all public places, essentially restricting people to consuming it at home. Critics have pointed out problems with that approach. Children could potentially be exposed to second-hand smoke and vapor in their homes. And apartment and condo dwellers who live in no-smoking buildings would have no place to consume cannabis.

“That’s been identified as a major flaw in the legislation,” says Trina Fraser, an Ottawa lawyer who specializes in cannabis business law. “If you’re not creating venues for people to consume cannabis, you are basically driving it into the very places you don’t want.

“If somebody doesn’t want to get evicted from their (no-smoking) apartment, they might smoke in their car, and you don’t want them smoking in their car. But they are going to feel like, ‘I’ve got no choice. I’ve got no other place to go where I can use cannabis.’ That’s an issue.”

However, cannabis lounges would not spring up as soon as recreational pot is made legal by the federal government — expected in July. The regulations published Thursday say the province is considering the idea of both lounges and designated cannabis consumption spaces outside multi-unit buildings, but more consultation is required.

“This is great news,” said Gustavo Natotschiev, owner of Vaper Town, a store in the ByWard Market that sells e-juices and vaping devices. He opened the chic store on Clarence Street two years ago with the intention of turning it into a vape lounge and coffee shop if that became legal. He said he dreams of a place where people can grab a latte and vape marijuana in a “friendly, safe environment.” Both recreational and medical cannabis users would welcome a lounge, he said.

“It’s very important to have these places, for a wide demographic.”

Natotschiev said he supports strong regulations on vape lounges, but the government should also make sure that small businesspeople have a chance to operate them.

Ontario’s proposed regulations would also relax consumption rules in other areas. Tourists would find it easier to check out Ontario’s legal pot, for instance. People would be allowed to smoke or vape in any hotel room where cigarette smoking is allowed. And there would be no restriction on consuming other forms of cannabis in hotel rooms, so sharing a few pot candy bars, when edible cannabis products are eventually legalized by the federal government, would be OK.

The regulations provide more detail to the Cannabis Act passed by the provincial legislature in December. The law will go into effect once the federal government legalizes recreational cannabis.

Other highlights from the proposed regulations:

• People would be allowed to use marijuana in vehicles and boats with sleeping accommodations and cooking facilities that are being used as residences. The RV must be parked or the boat docked, though.

• People whose workplace is in their home would be allowed to consume cannabis there. Consumption is banned at other workplaces.

• The regulations clarify that cannabis cannot be consumed at public or private schools, childcare centers or any place where an early years program or service is provided. Home daycare operators could not smoke or vape, even when children are not present, although they would be allowed to use other forms of cannabis if children weren’t there.

• Smoking and vaping would be prohibited in any indoor or outdoor common area of a condo, apartment building or university or college residence.