When Jon Liedtke opened his 6,000 square-foot cannabis lounge Higher Limits two years ago, he knew it wasn’t exactly a legal establishment. The Smoke-Free Ontario law prohibits anyone from smoking in public spaces or workplaces. But the law applies to tobacco, not cannabis, and as a medical cannabis user himself, he was aware of the need for non-residential spaces to medicate.
“We knew there was the risk that we might get shut down, but we weren’t willing to shut down on our own,” he says. “We were always going to fight forward and we know that medical cannabis users need a space to be able to take their medication.”
But he may not have to fight that battle: Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General is “proactively exploring” licensing for cannabis consumption lounges and venues in the province post-legalization and considering allowing owners or property managers to designate areas for recreational cannabis consumption outdoors post-legalization.
It’s welcome news for Ontario lounge owners. In Toronto, the Hotbox Cafe’s Abi Roach and the Cannabis Friendly Business Association formally requested that the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee create a license for lounges.
But for Liedtke, who says he’s had more than 60,000 customers since opening, a license to to operate legally doesn’t go far enough. He also wants a license to sell weed.
“You can go to a bar and order a glass of wine or get a shot of whiskey,” he says. “People should be able to come into Higher Limits or go into the Hotbox and buy a joint or get a bong that comes prefilled, which allows for cannabis entrepreneurs to have the same opportunities as those in the alcohol sector.”
Instead, the government-run Liquor Control Board of Ontario plans to open 40 stores and offer mail-order delivery for the province’s cannabis consumers.
In addition to potentially licensing lounges, the ministry is proposing prohibiting medicinal users from medicating while driving, but allowing them to use oils if a passenger in a car and allowing the use of recreational cannabis in hotels, boats and live/work spaces, subject to conditions.