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Calls for Ontario Consumption Lounges

In a recent 2023 Provincial Budget Submission, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce is calling on the provincial government to allow cannabis consumption lounges in Ontario.

The advocacy body says recreational cannabis has emerged as one of Canada’s fastest-growing sectors since legalization, but “major hurdles – including an overly restrictive regulatory regime – inhibit economic growth, deter investment, and squeeze margins for producers and retailers alike.”

One of their six recommendations is to facilitate cannabis consumption establishments and implement social occasion permits.

Their other recommendations include:
1.      Work with the federal government to ensure regulations strike the appropriate balance between safeguarding public health and ensuring cannabis companies can develop a distinct brand and product offerings that can effectively compete with illegal actors.
2.      Modernize regulations to allow licensed producers and retailers to have a direct relationship.
3.      Pursue lost tax revenues from underground markets, and establish tougher penalties for noncompliance, coupled with intensified audits.
4.      Require the Ontario Cannabis Retail Store to provide quarterly updates on their progress around the 16 recommendations in the Auditor General’s value-for-money audit report released in December 2021.
5.      Address issues related to the clustering of cannabis retailers

Canadian jurisdictions continue to wait for legal consumption lounges. In early 2022, Manitoba went through a second round of cannabis consumption consultations, but no further regulatory changes have been announced.

More recently, in January 2023, British Columbia’s Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General released the province’s survey results on consumption spaces. Most telephone respondents were in favour of license cannabis consumption spaces, while just 34% of those who provided their responses online expressed their support for such spaces.

Despite the discrepancies within the report, Mike Farnworth, BC’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, says that the feedback gathered will play a critical role in informing any future policies and strategies that might be employed in order to advance the growth of the industry.

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