Cannabis clubs are becoming more common around the world, particularly in Canada. Unfortunately, some lawmakers and regulators continue to seemingly act as if prohibiting social cannabis use venues will prevent them from operating. A recent example of that can be found via comments made by Ontario Premier Doug Ford after he heard a pitch for cannabis clubs provided by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
“I don’t like the idea of having a lounge outside and they’re smoking or doobies or weed or whatever the heck they call it now,” said Premier Ford according to the Toronto Star. “If you want to do your stuff, do it somewhere else. That’s my opinion.”
The recent comments were unfortunate, although, they do not reflect the reality of what is happening throughout much of Canada. When consumers go “somewhere else” it’s often a cannabis speakeasy. Furthermore, people are going to consume cannabis at events such as concerts, just as they have for many, many years. Lawmakers like Premier Ford can choose to stick their heads in the sand and pretend like social cannabis use doesn’t already exist, however, that denial of reality comes at a cost to public health, safety, and revenue.
Whether Premier Doug Ford realizes it or not, contained in his recent comments is an argument for regulating social cannabis use and allowing venues to be licensed. Per Premier Ford’s own words, he doesn’t “like the idea of having a lounge outside and they’re smoking.” What is being proposed is private venues, where people can consume cannabis out of public view.
As responsible cannabis consumers will be quick to point out, they typically don’t prefer to consume cannabis on a sidewalk or in an alley. Speaking for myself, I’d much rather consume cannabis in a private social setting. When I am away from home and I don’t have a private setting to consume in, I’d gladly go to a regulated venue to smoke cannabis instead of doing so in a park or on the side of a building. If Premier Ford’s main argument is that he doesn’t want cannabis consumption to be a nuisance, then he should be advocating for cannabis clubs and not against them.
Cannabis consumers and patients want cannabis clubs, other private social venues, and consumption-friendly events. Just as some adults want to consume alcohol around their current friends and family, and/or want to make new friends, the same is true for cannabis. For patients specifically, they need to be able to consume their medicine wherever they are, and social cannabis businesses help facilitate that.
The unregulated cannabis market is going to fill any voids left by deficient public policy. If lawmakers like Premier Ford do not want to pursue sensible public policy and do not want to allow social use entities to legally operate, such entities will still surely exist, they will just be less safe and zero percent of any profits will go to public coffers. Lawmakers in Ontario, Canada, and everywhere else would be wise to embrace cannabis clubs rather than oppose them. Calls for social use reform are not going away, and will only get louder as the emerging legal cannabis industry continues to expand.