Feature image: The New Amsterdam Cannabis Café in Vancouver
Welcome to The Great White North. Canada’s got it all – stunning nature, chill vibes, vibrant cities, and now, legal adult-use cannabis. If you’re looking to sample the finest cannabis products the world has to offer, you will find it here. And if you are looking for a safe, social place to consume, you will find it at a consumption lounge. But there’s a bit of a legal haze around these joints (no pun intended), so read on while we clear the air.
Long before cannabis became legal, Canada had a rich and complex relationship with the plant. Even though it was illegal, weed was widely used and readily available if you knew people in town. And if you knew the right people and were “cool”, you might be invited into their world. The world of cannabis was a major part of Canada’s underground economy, helping to keep small towns and rural areas afloat. But now that it’s legal, the times are a-changin’ and finding that safe, welcoming place to enjoy your legal stash can be confusing especially for out-of-towners!
Alright, let’s take a deep dive into the world of cannabis consumption lounges. We’ll be breaking down the different types of lounges, the services they offer, and the legal status (or lack thereof). Plus, we’ll be dropping some knowledge on the pros and cons of these establishments that researchers have been puff puff passin’ around. So grab a seat, pack a bowl, spark up and let’s explore the high life of cannabis cafes and/or lounges together!
What is a Cannabis Consumption Lounge?
Picture a cozy joint with comfy seats, cool vibes, and maybe some entertainment to make it even better. A cannabis consumption lounge is a place where you can legally consume cannabis in a safe and controlled social environment. Typically, these lounges are similar to bars or coffee shops, and the perfect place to hang out with friends, make some new buds, and try some killer strains. Plus, it’s all about inclusivity and community, so you’ll feel right at home. And let’s face it, who doesn’t need a little sense of community these days?
The Types of Cannabis Lounges
There are several types of cannabis consumption spaces, including at 420 events, single-use licenses for events, and permanent cannabis cafes that are under consideration.
First, we have 420 events on April 20th. These are one-time gatherings that celebrate cannabis culture, often with music, vendors, and food trucks. Although technically consumption isn’t allowed at these events (depending on the province), attendees usually find ways to consume on-site. Another option is single-use licenses for events which allow temporary use of a space for cannabis consumption – think concert venues or private event spaces. Finally, there are proposed permanent cannabis consumption lounges which would offer a dedicated, government-regulated space for cannabis consumption and socialization on an ongoing basis.
Services Cannabis Smoking Lounges May Offer:
- Cannabis consumption space to enjoy your licensed flower, edibles, and concentrates in a legit environment.
- Smoking accessories provided like papers, pipes, or vaporizers so you can blaze up in style.
- Comfy seating to kick back and savor your pre-purchased cannabis treats.
- Non-cannabis products such as coffee, tea, and snacks and full-course extravagant dining.
- Entertainment with music, games, big screen TVs, sports, comedy shows and even open mic shows.
- An education portal to help you select the perfect strains and cannabis products, as well as learn about safe consumption methods and dosage for an epic experience.
- Community events like art shows, concerts, and other chill gatherings.
- Workshops on how to cook with cannabis or even grow your own plants.
- Rentals for private events for special occasions so you can gather with your buds.
- Delivery services for those who can’t or don’t want to consume on-site, so you can still get your cannabis fix, no matter what.
The Scene as it is Now
As of 2023, cannabis consumption lounges are not legal in Canada, although progress has been made in some provinces.
Provinces such as BC, Ontario, and Alberta are considering allowing licensed retail stores to establish cannabis consumption spaces. These provinces have already permitted temporary designated consumption spaces at festivals and events and are interested in regulating permanent spaces that are licensed by the local government. While BC has taken a few strides toward allowing cannabis consumption businesses, such as producing a report on consumption spaces, they are slowly deciding on their next steps.
Due to the excruciatingly slow pace of regulatory reviews in Canada, we are still waiting for a legal framework to regulate pot lounges. In the meantime, the underground cannabis consumption lounge scene has taken a more informal atmosphere. Some dispensaries may have a bench outside their shops where customers may be able to light up away from doorways. Additionally, unlicensed establishments have been operating in major cities across the country for decades. However, these lounges operate in a grey area and are at risk of being shut down by law enforcement.
Tourists may face difficulties due to the inconsistency in cannabis consumption laws across provinces, as they may be unaware of varying regulations. So, provinces need to hurry up and get their act together to regulate on-premise cannabis consumption. This way, both locals and visitors can light up and enjoy their legal canna purchases without any confusion or worry.
Despite slow progress, recent developments suggest that cannabis lounges may soon become a legal and regulated part of the industry. Some savvy entrepreneurs have found ways to maneuver around the regulations so they can offer these safe and controlled spaces for cannabis enthusiasts to gather and enjoy their favorite herb.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples of businesses that are making strides in the world of cannabis consumption.
The New Amsterdam Cafe and Lounge is an iconic destination in Vancouver’s cannabis culture. It’s centrally located near many other popular tourist attractions, making it convenient for visitors to drop in and enjoy cannabis while exploring the city. The Planet Paradise is Toronto’s premier cannabis lounge and entertainment venue with a smoking area, live shows, delicious food, and a vibrant community. Behind The Bend Café and Lounge in Grand Bend, Ontario, is a great spot to enjoy local food, games, and community events on their outdoor patio, which is conveniently located behind a licensed cannabis store. Another great example is MaryJane Manor, a boutique hotel in Mossleigh, Alberta, which boasts a licensed cannabis store on-site and allows guests to partake in cannabis consumption in their rooms, as well as in indoor and outdoor lounge areas. And other businesses like Bud Buffet and High Bar Canada are also trailblazers in providing innovative solutions to meet the cannabis needs of their customers.
Here are more details about the mentioned consumption spaces.
Here are the Cannabis Consumption Lounges that are Currently Operating in Canada
The History of Cannabis Consumption Lounges in Canada
Before cannabis became legal for recreational use in Canada, underground cannabis consumption lounges existed offering a secure refuge for cannabis enthusiasts to unite and consume their weed in a friendly and informative setting. Cannabis cafes were an integral part of the counterculture movement contributing to the legalization of cannabis. Medical marijuana also played a significant role in the emergence of consumption lounges, as patients sought out safe and legal spaces to consume their medicine. These lounges were often hidden away in discreet locations and known to those within the cannabis community.
Although technically illegal, law enforcement often tolerated these lounges, especially in cities like Vancouver, Victoria, and Toronto where cannabis use was more widely accepted. Some of these lounges even operated openly for years while local authorities looked the other way.
On the eve of legalization in Toronto, The Hotbox Café was blazing with 10,000 monthly visitors! All you had to do is bring your own weed, or vapes, show your ID, and pay a small cover charge. No other drugs or alcohol allowed but you could blaze up on their outdoor patio or vape inside.
These underground establishments were crucial in the development of cannabis culture in Canada, providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for like-minded individuals to share knowledge and build community. Their closure after legalization has been a significant loss for those who frequented them for the convenience, quality products, and compassionate pricing.
The Future Outlook
The future of cannabis consumption lounges in Canada looks promising, with plans for lounges proposed in Ontario and Alberta. The federal government is also considering allowing them in the future, although some regulations may need to be changed first. Since legalization, surveys have shown that more people are smoking weed in public, which highlights the demand for safe and legal places to consume cannabis. With a high demand from locals and tourists alike, cannabis lounges have the potential to give the emerging cannabis tourism industry in the country a much-needed boost.
A Canadian cannabis tourism research study indicates that consumers are interested in various cannabis-related activities, such as, going on a retreat, staying in cannabis-friendly accommodations, trying THC infused dining, attending festivals, concerts, and more.
Budhub envisions a future where cannabis consumption lounges are welcoming and inclusive spaces that help break the stigma attached to cannabis. An excellent example of this vision is Behind The Bend Café and Lounge in Grand Bend, Ontario. By creating a comfortable and inviting ambiance, Behind the Bend is setting the standard for the success of cannabis lounges in Canada. Ultimately, these spaces promote inclusivity and community while changing people’s perceptions of cannabis consumption.
In summary, Canada’s cannabis consumption lounge scene offers a great opportunity to bond with buds, boost the local scene, and keep weed away from family activities in public areas. But there are a limited number of cannabis spaces currently operating and the scene is limited to underground establishments and licensed dispensaries that are willing to bend the rules. When the feds finally create the rules around cannabis consumption lounges, the tourism industry is gonna reach new levels of highness!
As cannabis becomes more normalized in Canada, you can look forward to many unique experiences such as adventure tours, city tours, cooking classes, and more. Just be sure to do your research and follow the legal guidelines in each province before making plans. Booking a tour with a dispensary or consulting with a knowledgeable budtender is the best way to experience cannabis tourism in Canada. And as the industry buds and blooms, you can bet I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for new developments and keeping you informed.
Here are the latest pros & cons of what people think about cannabis consumption lounges in Canada
Offers a safe and controlled environment for people to consume cannabis, reducing the risks associated with consuming it in public spaces.
Potential for excessive noise and criminal activity that could affect the vibe and character of neighborhoods.
Provides an opportunity to educate the public about cannabis and responsible use.
Exposure to second-hand smoke, negatively affecting the health of employees and patrons.
Boosts tourism in Canada while creating a new market as an international leader in the cannabis industry.
Potential for people to become too intoxicated if they mix cannabis with alcohol.
Offers amenities for travellers and tourists who can't smoke in hotels, rental cars, public places or parks.
Concerns around impaired driving.
Promotes a culture of inclusivity and community and helps reduce the stigma surrounding cannabis.
The aroma of cannabis can be unpleasant to some.
Expands the client base for those operating cannabis businesses.
Concerns consumption lounges could promote cannabis, vaping, and smoking and increase exposure to minors.
What do you think? I would love to hear from you! Please send me an email at [email protected] to share your thoughts, feedback, suggestions, or experiences.