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MB Considering Consumption Lounges—Again

Manitoba’s Justice Minister Cameron Friesen told Global News that the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority (LGCA) is once again asking for input from cannabis industry stakeholders and the public regarding cannabis consumption spaces.

Consumption Lounges

Last year, the LGCA asked the cannabis industry, associated industries, and the public their opinions on allowing cannabis consumption in places like lounges, cafes, and even spas, hoping to use the consultations as a guide for future policy decisions. The first round, according to Friesen, garnered mixed support, however, the LGCA’s 2020-21 Annual Report speculated that those asked were apprehensive to socialize during the pandemic so public consumption spaces weren’t at the front of their minds.

The first consultation received 800 responses from online surveys and the results showed that 43% of Manitobans surveyed were against consumption lounges, while 39% wanted them, and 15% were neutral. Some of the issues brought up by those against were concerns about the need for increased enforcement, as well as the ability to meet consumer demand with new access points, and the need for strong public education to keep consumers safe.

On the other hand, those in favour of consumption lounges cited the myriad of new business opportunities for retailers and processors and new revenue for small businesses. Advocates also argue that new access points are needed to meet consumer demand.

Steven Stairs, chair of the Cannabis Business Association of Manitoba, told Global News that he is in favour of consumption lounges, or at least new ways for retailers and customers to interact with cannabis. He said that not only will it give smaller retailers the opportunity to carve out a niche for themselves and stand up to the big guys, but also help them stand out from the crowd.

“The number of retail stores out there who are looking to expand their retail footprint into the lounge-consumption space market is immense,” he said. “It’s not everybody, but it’s definitely a large portion.”

Still A Stigma

While the number of cannabis retailers in Manitoba nearly tripled between 2019-20 and 2020-21, portions of the province’s population still aren’t sure what to think—the government included.

Manitoba is one of the only provinces to offer a separate license for third-party cannabis delivery businesses, however, legislation was introduced earlier this year that prohibited smoking cannabis in public.

Even though results were mixed about consumption lounges, Manitobans are more sure about one thing—cannabis and alcohol don’t mix. When asked if alcohol and cannabis should be kept separate, 43% agreed to keep them apart, while only 29% disagreed, and 21% were neutral.

Bakeries, cafes, restaurants, and bars seemed to be the most interested in public cannabis consumption, hoping to add infused treats and experiences to their menus, but spas and massage therapists were more apprehensive. Adding “medicated” services are outside of their scope of practice, Tricia Weidenbacher, executive director of the Massage Therapy Association of Manitoba told Global News last year, and services that may leave guests intoxicated could present new issues.

According to Friesen, consultations will begin again in 2022.

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