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Ontario Officials Accepting Public Comments On Cannabis Consumption Venue Licensing

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The Ministry of the Attorney General in Ontario, Canada recently announced that it is seeking public input regarding licensing social cannabis use venues and events. Social cannabis use venues such as cannabis lounges and cafes are currently prohibited in Ontario. Consumption at public events is also currently prohibited.

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

Social cannabis use reform provides a number of benefits. The most obvious one is that it will create new types of businesses that cater specifically to providing spaces for people to consume cannabis. Just as people frequent clubs, bars, taverns, and pubs for the purpose of consuming alcohol in a social environment, so too will cannabis consumers be able to do the same in Ontario sooner rather than later.

Another benefit of social cannabis use reform is that it will help mitigate public consumption, which can be considered to be a nuisance by some members of the public, similar to many people’s desires to avoid tobacco smoke. Public consumption would likely not be eliminated entirely in Ontario if/when social use reform is implemented, but it will help address the issue to some extent.

An interesting benefit being touted by regulators in Ontario is that legalizing social cannabis venues and event licensing will help further combat the unregulated cannabis industry in Ontario. Consumers may be able to make legal purchases, however, not all of them have a place to safely consume the cannabis that they purchase. It’s an issue that affects tourists, individuals in low-income housing, as well as patients in care facilities.

Presumably, some portion of people in those situations prefer to purchase cannabis from unregulated sources simply because the individual that they are making the purchase from will let them consume cannabis where they are located. Social consumption reform would provide regulated alternatives, which is a good policy move for Ontario as long as it is implemented properly.

Ontario is one of many jurisdictions in North America that is seeking to allow regulated social cannabis consumption at establishments and at events. Valid concerns exist regarding social cannabis use reform, not the least of which is mitigating impaired driving and keeping cannabis out of the hands of children. However, those concerns can be properly addressed with sensible policies and regulations.

If venues can serve alcohol in a responsible manner, the same can be achieved with serving cannabis and/or allowing people to bring their own cannabis for consumption. The same is true for concerts, plays, and other events. Some jurisdictions, such as Denver, Colorado and the Bay Area of California, have already successfully implemented social use reforms, which is something that regulators in Ontario can no doubt learn from.