At Grand Bizarre, patrons can swim, eat, drink, mingle and now, if they feel like it, walk around the corner and smoke cannabis in a restricted area.
Cannabis Carnival is touted as one of the first of its kind in Ontario, a venue dedicated to smoking cannabis that its president, Zlatko Starkovski, says is in line with Ontario’s Smoke-Free Act.
“I think cannabis smokers in general need a safe and responsible place to smoke when they go out,” Starkovski told CBC News.
“There are a lot of people smoking at home, in cars, and potentially bingeing, so we’re taking a proactive approach to cannabis smokers now that it’s legal since 2018.”
Starkovsky points out that there are plenty of places to buy cannabis, but not many designated places to consume it. He says that Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Ontario Cannabis Store are educational partners.
“We’ve checked all the boxes to make sure we’re also avoiding secondhand smoke,” he said.
SEE | Cannabis smokers have a new outdoor space in Exhibition Place:
“No alcohol is served in the cannabis area…and we don’t sell cannabis, you bring your own.” Starkovsky said, adding that being in Exhibition Place and working with such a large area helped them meet the guidelines.
“We have the space to do something like this.”
More designated cannabis spaces could be coming
Brad Poulos, a professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Metropolitan University of Toronto, says the space is a creative idea and he hopes to see more like it.
“We’re definitely going to see more of this stuff come along as people figure out what it can and can’t do,
regarding the rules on cannabis use, especially smoking,” he said.
“Because there are a lot of places where you can’t smoke cannabis…I definitely think we’ll have a cannabis lounge industry at some point,” Poulos said, adding that it was already happening before legalization.
The province says it has started some consultations on consumer lounges.
George Smitherman, president and CEO of the Cannabis Council of Canada, says spaces like this are a step toward normalizing cannabis use.
“It is mainly beneficial for the cannabis consumer, who, despite the fact that we have had legalization, was forced to consume behind the dumpster,” he said.
And while Smitherman says it’s not easy to establish a place like this within the province’s regulations, he believes there is an appetite for it and the potential for the industry to enhance tourism.
“I think we’re going to see a lot of evolution in this space over time,” he said.
“Keep in mind that we are primarily talking about outdoor consumption because we are talking about dried flower cannabis, but there are a wide variety of other products that lend themselves to indoor consumption, such as edibles, beverages, and even infused foods.”
For now, the outdoor space at Grand Bizarre will be open through the summer, with the potential to become permanent in the future.