With legalization mere months away, provinces and territories across the country are enacting their respective cannabis regulations, and one of the big questions hanging in the air is: What about cannabis lounges?
For anyone dreaming of Amsterdam-style coffee shops and cool lounges where you can drop in to freely smoke and vape cannabis, I’ve got bad news- it’s far from guaranteed. While some provinces like BC and Ontario have indicated that they are considering cannabis lounges, the future of cannabis lounges in Canada remains hazy.
Here are 5 reasons why we need legal and licensed cannabis lounges in the wake of legalization.
1. Come Oct. 17, Cannabis is legal
First and foremost, that’s what the Cannabis Act was supposed to do right? Repeal cannabis prohibition, that is, and wouldn’t you know, we’ve already been through something similar when Canada repealed alcohol prohibition.
Lesser known fact: Canada enacted nationwide alcohol prohibition from 1918-1920 as a temporary wartime measure, and all provinces and territories have had some form of provincial prohibition that lasted anywhere from less than a year to over 46 years!
But can you imagine a world where places you can go for a drink, like licensed bars and restaurants, don’t exist (or are still technically illegal)? Doesn’t that sound crazy?
Some provinces will allow cannabis to be smoked and vaped wherever tobacco is (except at places where children are likely to be, like playgrounds, parks, and beaches, etc.), while others are proposing a complete ban on public consumption.
But when you look at how restrictive anti-smoking laws already are with the added restriction of banning cannabis consumption anywhere children are likely to be, is there really that much of a difference between that and a complete ban on public consumption?
So if you can’t, for all intents and purposes, smoke or vape cannabis in public, I guess the last place left is the comfort of your own home and maybe that doesn’t sound that bad to you. Smoking weed at home can be very relaxing after all.
But some Canadian cannabis consumers may not even get to enjoy that luxury as…
3. You can be banned from smoking or vaping at home
Some condo corporations and strata councils are in a race against time to get zero-tolerance smoking regulations in the books before legalization.
Mainstreet Equity Corp., a Calgary-based apartment rental company with more than 11,000 units across western Canada, has recently announced a ban on cigarette and cannabis smoking in its units and balconies, and many other organizations are following suit.
This is likely setting the stage for future human rights complaints between cannabis users (particularly medical patients) and non-smokers, who will be battling over the right to use cannabis versus the right of non-smokers to enjoy a smoke-free environment.
This puts cannabis consumers in a tight spot, especially in cities like Vancouver that are in the midst of a housing crisis, where people may be risking eviction over something that is supposed to be legal.
Cannabis lounges would go a long way in alleviating these issues, along with helping achieve one of the main goals of the government when it comes to legalizing, which is…
3. Keeping cannabis away from children
One of the federal government’s most-repeated justifications for legalizing cannabis is protecting the youth.
What better way to keep cannabis out of kid’s hands than to have licensed cannabis lounges where you need to be at least 19 years or older to enter- just like bars and clubs. You just need to make sure these establishments are being rigorous with their ID checks and you’re good to go.
Without lounges, people will have to resort to either breaking the law by smoking in public or at home (provided they’re not banned by strata), and that could inadvertently expose more kids to cannabis, in addition to second and third-hand smoke, than if licensed lounges were allowed.
One of the biggest issues when it comes to cannabis use at home and in public is second-hand smoke. But there are different ways to use cannabis other than smoking, with edibles being one of the least-intrusive, most-popular, and healthiest ways of consuming cannabis.
There’s only one catch…
4. Everything but cannabis flower, oil, and seeds are still illegal
That means edibles are illegal, and will be at least until 2019, which is when the government has promised to begin looking into regulating it. That’s not to say you should mark your calendars for edibles to be legalized in 2019 though. Knowing how fast the government moves, it will likely be years before edibles finally get legalized.
Just think, the current Trudeau government was elected all the way back in 2015, and one of their key campaign promises was cannabis legalization, and it hasn’t even happened yet as of this writing!
It seems strange that Health Canada always talks about how the health of Canadians is one of its top priorities, yet drinkables and edibles, which are both safer for you than smoking (with the effects of vaping needing further study), are still illegal.
5. Lounges provide a safe space to consume for cannabis newbies and tourists
This last one is especially important for the cannabis curious and tourists, who may not have the experience with cannabis to know what they like or want, and would prefer someone to guide them along the way.
Much like staff at dispensaries can help you find the strains you’re looking for, the staff at a consumption lounge can show you all the in’s and out’s of rolling a joint, packing a bong, using a vaporizer, or doing a dab- which can all seem very intimidating to the uninitiated.
There is also the social aspect to cannabis as well, and cannabis lounges give people a chance to enjoy the culture as much as the cannabis as they meet new people and puff puff pass.
As the first G7 country to legalize cannabis, Canada could see an influx of cannabis tourists eager to get a fix of the ganja in the Great White North, making cannabis lounges especially important as most hotels have strict non-smoking policies.
The Canadian tourism industry is estimated at $127 billion, and I think it would be wise to show some Canadian hospitality and do everything we can to make their stay as fun and comfortable as possible, and that includes cannabis lounges where tourists can safely enjoy a soon-to-be legal activity without being forced out into the streets to break the law.