Ontario Lawmakers Looking Into Legalizing Cannabis Consumption Lounges

Are cannabis consumption lounges in the cards for Ontario?
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The government of Ontario, Canada is considering a proposal to allow cannabis consumption lounges to operate in the province and is soliciting feedback from residents on any potential changes to current regulations. The government announced the proposed change via a posting in the province’s regulatory registry on Monday, noting that comments from the public will be accepted for one month.

With the legalization of marijuana in Canada in 2018, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has said it hopes to create an open market in legal cannabis, including the establishment of cafes and lounges where public consumption is permitted. The government is also considering allowing cannabis use at special events such as concerts and festivals, according to Monday’s notice.

Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey said in a statement that the government is seeking guidance from the public on the proposals. Comments from the public will be accepted online until March 10.

“We are asking Ontarians to share their feedback as we explore certain expanded cannabis-related business opportunities as part of our responsible approach to protecting families and communities,” Downey said. “What we hear from the public and expert groups will help to inform possible next steps.”

Cannabis consultant Robyn Rabinovich said that allowing cannabis sales at locations other than dispensaries can help open up the legal market.

“There’s a lot of opportunities for businesses like cafes and restaurants to start making steps into the cannabis industry,” she said.

Rabinovich also noted that permitting cannabis at special events would give the government a way to regulate use at public gatherings in a post-legal environment.

“If you’re at a music festival and you look around, it’s clear that cannabis is being consumed,” she said. “If they were to organize it and regulate it, it may not be in the presence of minors or be causing any harm to others at the event.”

Downey noted that a robust legal cannabis market is supported by the government, which sees expanding legal sales as the best way to compete with unlicensed businesses.

“Ontario continues to take a responsible approach to cannabis retail sales across Ontario, allowing private sector businesses to build a safe and convenient retail system to combat the illegal market while keeping our kids and communities safe,” he said.

The government also pledged in Monday’s notice to consult with “industry representatives, public health and safety organizations, education stakeholders, and Indigenous representatives” before committing to any course of action.

Although Ontario is soliciting feedback on the proposal to license cannabis consumption lounges and special events, the government advised in the registry notice that no changes to the current regulatory framework are planned as of yet and a timeline for the implementation of any changes that are eventually approved could not be determined.

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