Ontario’s proposal to allow people to consume marijuana in hotel rooms opens the door to a boom in cannabis tourism, says lawyer Matt Maurer.
Maurer heads the cannabis law group at Minden Gross in Toronto, and says he knows businesspeople who are interested in opening cannabis-friendly hotels and resorts.
Maurer says he was surprised by the province’s proposal to loosen up the ban on consuming cannabis anywhere other than private homes. The government has also asked for public comments on whether to allow cannabis lounges.
Maurer said he assumed the provincial government would eventually consider exemptions to the cannabis act passed in December, which bans consumption in public places.
“I was surprised that it happened so quickly.”
Maurer calls consumption in hotels “step No. 1” in the development of a cannabis tourism industry.
“You could come to Ontario, go to the government-owned retail store, pick up your cannabis, head out to the hotel room, consume it there and head out to where ever you are going that evening, to a show or an event.”
The provincial regulations unveiled last month propose that cannabis could be consumed by residents and their guests at rooms in hotels, motels and inns, as long as the drug is not smoked or vaped. Smoking and vaping marijuana would be allowed in designated smoking rooms.
The regulations have been posted for public comment. The government plans to put them into effect when recreational marijuana is legalized across the country, expected in July.
Ontario has also opened the door to cannabis consumption lounges, asking for public comments on the idea. There’s no time frame for the lounges, but rules won’t be in place be by July. The province says the comments it receives will “inform future policy development and consultations.”
Abi Roach, who runs a cannabis vaping lounge in Toronto called Hotbox Cafe, says she’s interested in opening more if they become legal. She dreams of the day when lounges will be allowed to sell single servings of cannabis, just like drinks are served in a bar or restaurant.
At the Hotbox (slogan: “serving potheads since … ahh I forget”), guests pay a $5 entry fee and bring their own pot.
If Ontario allows lounges, they probably won’t feature smoking inside because of concerns over the health dangers of second-hand smoke to both customers and employees, said Roach. “I don’t like to be in a big smoky room, either.”
At the Hotbox, only vaping is allowed inside. Pot smokers puff at an outdoor patio.
Roach also sees a demand for pot-friendly hotels. She’s helping design a cannabis-themed room at a hotel to be built in downtown Toronto. Each room in the hotel is owned by a private investor and offers a themed experience. If cannabis consumption is made legal in hotel rooms, they’ll go ahead with that project.
However, Roach said she doubts if Canada will see a big influx of cannabis tourists from the U.S. because we’ll be competing with a growing number of American states that are legalizing pot, some of which have taken a more creative, freewheeling approach. Ontario plans to sell cannabis from behind the counter at a restricted number of government-run stores. That won’t appeal to people who want convenience and innovative products from craft producers, said Roach.
“Canada really has to be careful in terms of blocking innovation in this industry.”
Roach said she recently drove from Vancouver to Washington State, where she stopped at a gas station and bought a joint. “To me as a tourist, it was like, ‘Wow, this is great!’ ”
In the lvillage of Embrun 40 kilometres southeast of Ottawa, Frank Medewar says he plans to open a lounge if they are made legal. He already runs InfoCannabis, a service that advises people about medical marijuana, and Seed 2 Weed, a store that sells growing equipment.
Medewar says his lounge will be modern and upscale, similar to an old-fashioned cigar lounge.
At the headquarters of the world’s largest medical marijuana company, Canopy Growth Corp. in Smiths Falls, spokesman Jordan Sinclair said the company would love to make the huge grow-op a tourist destination.
Canopy is in a former Hershey chocolate factory that was famous for tours taken by thousands of schoolchildren and tourists.
Canopy plans to have the plant open for public tours this summer, said Sinclair.
The company would also like to run a retail store on site, so the experience would be similar to a winery tour. However, the province has nixed that idea.
At Ottawa Tourism, spokesperson Jantine Van Kregten said the legalization of cannabis is on the radar. However, she hasn’t heard of any specific plans for hotels or other tourist ventures. “I think everybody is kind of taking a wait-and-see approach. I haven’t heard a lot of talk, a lot of scuttlebutt, in the industry of what their plans are. I think a lot of questions are unanswered about exactly how the legislation will roll out.”
Forwarded from www.OttawaCitizen.com