The Hamilton Spectator

Ford not keen on idea of pot lounges


Nope to the dope.

That’s the message from Premier Doug Ford following a pitch from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to allow cannabis-smoking lounges in the province.

“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,” the premier said in response to reporters’ questions following a skilled trades training announceme­nt in Vaughan on Tuesday morning.

He said he doesn’t like the idea of kids walking by and smelling it.

“I don’t like that personally,” he said. “If you want to do your stuff, do it somewhere else.”

As first reported by the Star last week, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce — in its submission for the upcoming provincial budget — urged the province to “modernize” its three-year-old cannabis sector and allow consumptio­n sites as well as permits for special occasions.

Rocco Rossi, the chamber’s president and CEO, told the Star a number of cannabis retailers are struggling financiall­y, given illegal sales make up about half of the market.

He called for an easing of regulation­s, as well as lounges or bars where patrons could consume cannabis and pop-up sites at concerts or sports events — a move that tourist organizati­ons have also touted as a way to help bring more visitors to the province.

Rossi also noted that “you’ve got some municipali­ties that allow (cannabis stores) and some that don’t, so you’ve got a bit of a chaotic rule structure. I think this is an area where three years in, you can and should be having ongoing conversati­ons to make things more transparen­t, more consistent.”

The chamber has also urged the government to do more to prevent “clustering” of pot shops near to one another.

On Tuesday, Ford noted that “there is store after store and I always said the market is going to dictate. You go to a strip mall and you can have three convenienc­e stores side by side — eventually there’s going to be one left. That’s what’s happening to the cannabis stores. In my opinion, the market always dictates, not government.”

Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said the province already bans smoking indoors, “and those rules should stay in place.”

The province “did that to protect people’s health, to protect people from second-hand smoke because we know that affects people’s health and we want to protect workers,” Fraser added.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said it’s important to support both public health safety and businesses.

“I’m not disregardi­ng it,” he added. “I just want to make sure we aren’t doing it in a half-baked way.”

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