The Ontario government’s announcement today that it plans to ban medical cannabis smoking and vaping in all public places came as a shock to the recently opened Windsor vapour lounge Higher Limits.
Operator Jon Liedtke said he was incredibly surprised to read the news this morning that the government is seeking to prohibit medical marijuana consumption in all public places after initially creating an exception that allowed medical patients to use cannabis.
“This is a government that, just four months ago, was going to expand medical marijuana access to all public places and, four months later, to have it go the other way is completely surprising,” Liedtke said.
Liedtke said he plans to fight the proposed legislation as he believes it violates the Charter rights of Canadians.
“We’re talking about medical marijuana, and it’s not really up to the province to determine when and where and how a medical marijuana user consumes their medication,” he said.
Since opening earlier this year in downtown Windsor, Liedtke said he’s been blown away by the support he’s received from the medical cannabis community, with up to a hundred patients coming through his doors each day.
Since the news broke this morning, he’s been fielding calls from dozens of medical users worried that Higher Limits, the only space in the area for medical cannabis, will be shutting its doors.
“People are concerned that we’re not going to be around as a place that they’ll be able to consume medical marijuana,” Liedtke said. “We’re taking about the most vulnerable members of society, we’re talking about sick people. There needs to be, at the very least, certainty that we’re going to be able to continue to consume our medication.”
Liedtke said he has no plans on closing and is now reaching out to government and working through legal means to decide how Higher Limits will respond to the decision.
Before the legislation is passed, the public has until the end of April to give feedback on the proposed ban and Liedtke expects to have six to eight months before the smoking ban impacts his operation.
Liedtke said the government’s reversal on its original decision to allow medical users to smoke speaks to the confusion and often conflicting messages that come from the Ontario government.
“We’re talking about a province that wants to have sole-source distribution of cannabis once it’s legalized through the LCBO, and yet they want to prohibit the consumption of all medical marijuana in public places” Liedtke said. “So you guys want to sell it all, where the hell is anyone supposed to consume it? This doesn’t make any sense.”
Liedtke said compared to other areas in the country, Higher Limits is the only location in that area of Ontario for the medical cannabis community.
Down here in Windsor, we’re the only place that people can come do this. There is a large community of people who want a place to do this,” he said. “If we lose our voice down here in Windsor, and the police go back to a model that only focuses on prohibition, it takes all the gains that have been made and makes them for naught.
“We’re going to continue to serve as a place where people can come together and educate themselves about cannabis and help to overcome the stigmas.”