Ontario Considers Cannabis Lounges, Pending Public Feedback

No timeline yet announced. Government has requested feedback from the public.

Source: iStock

The Canadian province of Ontario is considering legalizing cannabis lounges. 

No official timelines have been announced yet, but the government is requesting feedback from the public regarding the potential legalization of spaces designated for cannabis consumption. 

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Canada officially legalized recreational marijuana for adult residents back in 2018. 

Cannabis derivatives, including edibles, extracts, and topicals, were initially excluded, but became legal over a year later, at the end of 2019. 

Since then, however, public consumption of cannabis has remained illegal across the country.

The reality is though, without designated spaces for people to smoke, and despite country-wide legalization, illegal public consumption has continued. 

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The now Progressive Conservative government recently published a proposal to the Ontario Regulatory Registry calling for public feedback regarding the legalization of “lounges and cafes (cannabis consumption establishments),” as well as “cannabis special occasion permits.”

According to the brief proposal, “the government is collecting feedback at this time to inform potential decisions about opportunities in an open cannabis market in the future. No changes to the cannabis framework are expected at this time nor is there a current timeframe for any additional changes.”

This comes after the government’s announcement in December that the province will be transitioning to an “open market for retail cannabis sales in Ontario, as it originally intended.” 

In response to the government’s proposal, said cannabis business strategist Robyn Rabinovich, “There’s a lot of opportunities for businesses like cafes and restaurants to start making steps into the cannabis industry. This could ensure it’s done in a regulated and safe way.”

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Added Rabinovich, “If you’re at a music festival and you look around, it’s clear that cannabis is being consumed. 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.”

The feedback obtained from the public and industry leaders over the next month will be used to inform the government’s next steps in moving towards an open cannabis market. 

Attorney General Doug Downey said in a statement last week, “What we hear from the public and expert groups will help inform possible next steps. 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.”

Already this year, more than 700 applications for retail operator licenses have been received by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. 

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BNN Bloomberg reporter, David George-Cosh, tweeted on Monday, “The Ontario government said today it is collecting feedback to explore future policies that could result in a more open cannabis market, such as consuming cannabis in lounges, outdoor festivals or concerts.” 

Canadian residents can find instructions on how to submit their feedback by downloading a form from the Ontario Regulatory Registry website, including a list of questions to answer, found here.

The deadline to respond to the government’s request for feedback is March 10th, 2020.

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