Spliff Magazine

Coffeeshop Culture Around the World

Many municipalities around the globe have already created regulations for Cannabis consumption and distribution without any changes to the federal law. As an international city, Toronto should be no different.

Cannabis distribution should be licensed like liquor, not tobacco. Our liquor regulations allow for take home retail services, such as storefronts and home winemaking, as well as single serve retailing options, such as at bars or restaurants. The single serve method of distribution enforces controls for quality, portioning, age of consumption, and accountability for intoxicated driving.

Many patrons of cannabis lounges are unable to consume their cannabis where they live for reasons ranging from living in a shared dwelling to living in subsidized housing. Many of these patrons are also patients who suffer from physical or mental disabilities or illnesses. Therefore, even for those who can consume at home, cannabis is a social substance and the act of consuming with others in a social setting can be amazingly beneficial to medical consumers who may otherwise struggle to find social activities in which they can comfortably partake.

Though the dispensary model is a fantastic avenue of distribution both socially and economically they should not be the only option available to the public. Our lounges have proven for to be responsible and caring businesses to their customers and communities for the last 15 years.

Furthermore, the Toronto Police Services has stated:

“Though medical marihuana users are entitled to possess and consume their marihuana at home or at vapour lounges, the TPS believes there should be restrictions on smoking marihuana, including for medical purposes, in outdoor public spaces.”

By regulating and licensing our existing cannabis lounges the City of Toronto can control the issue of public consumption and the small quantity street distribution of cannabis. These two problems will only grow with legalization. Toronto needs to follow suit with international jurisdictions who have already not only reversed their consumption ban but have allowed for consumption facilities with single serve distribution.

Cannabis lounges have existed in the city of Toronto, since the opening of HotBox in 2003. Toronto is now home to 7 peaceful lounges, serving Toronto’s approximated 500,000 regular cannabis consumers and thousands of tourists. Currently none of the lounges dispense cannabis and all operate on a bring your own basis.

In 2012, MLS conducted its own investigation into Cannabis Lounges. The issue of licensing cannabis lounges had been brought to the city, at which time a report was prepared and presented to the Licensing and Standards Committee.

It was determined that Vapour Lounges provide a safe space for patients to medicate and cannabis consumers to congregate.

“Allowing these establishments to be properly licensed will ensure that the City respects the rights of the individuals who are legally permitted to consume marihuana for medical purposes, while ensuring that public safety and community order concerns are addressed.” – MLS 2012

In Portland, Oregon, the quasi-legal World Famous Cannabis Cafe has become fully legal under Oregon’s Measure 91.

Vermont could become the first state in the nation to end marijuana prohibition by way of the state legislature, giving way to a unique recreational cannabis market that not only allows the existence of retail sales but also creates a system that welcomes on-site cannabis consumption in a number of cannabis lounges throughout the state.

San Francisco, California is a prime example of how public cannabis consumption is working with city laws allowing medical marijuana use at dispensaries. Harvest is the first private cannabis consumption lounge in the state.

The Netherlands licensed its first cannabis coffeeshops in 1980. In the Netherlands the selling of cannabis is “illegal, but not punishable”, so the law is not enforced in establishments following these nationwide rules:

  • Maximum 5 grams of cannabis per customer;
  • No advertising;
  • No hard drug sales on the premises;
  • No sales to anyone under the age of 18;
  • No public disturbances;
  • No sale of alcohol;
  • Not located within a 250m radius of schools.

Contrary to popular belief, legalized marijuana doesn’t necessarily mean that more youth will be lighting up. A 2010 study also found that for the decade between 1998 and 2008, those aged 15 to 34 years old who live in the Netherlands did not smoke marijuana more frequently than in comparable countries like Denmark, Spain and France.

One of the distinctive characteristics of cannabis in Spain is its cannabis clubs, of which there are more than 800. In a decision made by the Supreme Court of Spain the clubs were essentially legalized, and they are now found all over the country.

The idea is that on-site consumption is responsible because the association controls the minimum age for their members, restricts on-site consumption amounts, and requires all consumption to occur on the property.

A notable difference from the U.S. is that Spain’s laws do not distinguish between recreational and medicinal use.

Uruguay legalized Cannabis in 2013, and over the last year has steadily implemented various aspects of the law.

Late last year, the government began registering grower’s clubs, which are allowed to cultivate up to 99 plants and can have a maximum of 45 members.

The clubs, which are sprouting up in Montevideo, often include giant greenhouses where members can grow plants to their liking and, of course, smoke a joint or two to test a harvest.

Members can receive up to 1.4 ounces (40 grams) per month.