Legal weed is coming to the Toronto Craft Beer Festival.
Organizers of the self-described “annual celebration of craft beer” will announce a collaboration Tuesday with Hotbox Cafe owner Abi Roach to establish a legal cannabis consumption lounge at the three-day event set for late June, Cannabis Professional has learned. As the first physical space reserved for social pot use since Canada legalized recreational cannabis last year, the lounge itself will measure just 600 sq ft, but the unique circumstances allowing it to exist highlight the immense challenge facing those wishing to build the cannabis-equivalent of a pub.
No cannabis or cannabis-infused products will be available for sale at the lounge, Ms. Roach explained in an interview, though she is planning a temporary 10-ft sales counter offering rolling papers and other accessories. The space will occupy part of the CNE’s existing smoking lounge and since Ontario law already allows cannabis consumption wherever cigarettes are permitted, Ms. Roach said no additional licenses are required.
“They have a smoking section already, so I said why don’t we take part of that section and make an enclosed area that is within the smoking section so it is allowed,” Ms. Roach said, “We can provide an alcohol and tobacco-free space where people can consume and we can educate on the safest ways to consume cannabis.”
For decades, Caryma Sa’d said Ms. Roach’s Kensington Market-based Hotbox Cafe has been among a small group of businesses allowing cannabis to be consumed on their premises in defiance of prohibition.
“Each of them had slightly different rules, not all of them allowed joints inside, for example,” said Ms. Sa’d, a cannabis-focused lawyer based in Toronto. “[There was sometimes] an informal arrangement with law enforcement… which is the way that HotBox and some of these other locations stayed open was an informal peace with those in charge of enforcement.”
While the rules for public cannabis consumption differ greatly by province, nowhere in Canada can a private business host a group of cannabis consumers in the same way that bars, pubs and restaurants host millions of Canadian alcohol consumers every day. The lack of any legal framework for social cannabis businesses is just now being addressed in jurisdictions that legalized recreational pot years before Canada, making the small space coming to the Toronto Craft Beer festival a potential critical experiment.