But the room isn’t just for her enjoyment. It’s seen a handful of visitors since Roach, the owner of the nearby cannabis-centric Hotbox Café, listed it about four months ago on rental website Airbnb as a “funky 420” space.
“The people are all super-cool,” she said, noting she has yet to have a guest that wasn’t pro-cannabis. “They get a bong in their room and a little tray of rolling papers and they love it.
“A lot of people who are coming are looking for unique experiences rather than just an all-inclusive hotel.”
The interest Roach’s space has generated puts her in a growing group of Canadians using “bud and breakfast” properties to cash in on the recent legalization of recreational cannabis.
On various rental and cannabis-centric tourism sites, the Star found dozens of “420-friendly” homes, including Muskoka cottages, a 54-hectare estate far north of Toronto and several condos, lofts and houses throughout the entire province.
Some promised hemp bedding, smoking lounges, access to pipes and bongs, enough space to throw a 40-person pot party and sometimes even “a complimentary gram.”
The rise of such listings is being aided by Ontario’s laws that allow cannabis to be consumed in private residences, though landlords and building boards can put no-smoking terms in leases.
Asked about its cannabis policies, Airbnb said only that “when users sign up with Airbnb they must certify that they will comply with local rules and regulations.”
Online classified listings site Kijiji Canada has also kept out of policing cannabis-related rental posts. However, the site saw a “slight spike” in rental posts using cannabis-friendly terminology in their titles following legalization, said Kent Sikstrom, community relations manager.
The freedoms afforded by such laws and platforms and the demand that cannabis-centric rentals are seeing have made Roach think about how she can offer even more to those travelling to Toronto to consume cannabis.
She has had a “bud and breakfast” property since 2012 in St. Ann, Jamaica, that promises “kushy accommodations” in rooms decorated with cannabis-centric textiles and furniture. It offers access to tours of cannabis farms; Bob Marley’s birthplace, Nine Mile; and local “mystical waters,” where you can “smoke a spliff and chill.” Roach even offers a “weedy wedding” package complete with a “green bouquet” and “ganja wedding cake.”
“The model can work in Canada,” she said. “We are actually in discussions with one location that would be sort of a multiplex and would have one layer with a store and a consumption area, and another layer with a three-bedroom bud-and-breakfast.”
Conrad Floyd, a Hamilton entrepreneur, has similar ambitions. He recently bought an “old burnt-down” hotel in the Lundy’s Lane area of Niagara Falls that he hopes to open as a cannabis-friendly inn by Canada Day.
He’s also at work on a Muskoka wakeboarding and cannabis retreat, and he is eyeing ventures in Caribbean markets planning to legalize the substance in the next year or so.
For now, he has listed on Airbnb two Hamilton units, above his former cannabis dispensary, that allow consumption of the substance. They are called “the Pink Elephant Hotel” — a reference to his favourite colour and a love of the animal that he shares with his father.
“We have had them operational for six months and they have been absolutely booked solid,” he said. “I saw the income from that and I thought, I need 40 to 50 more of these.”
Floyd said he has run into no trouble getting the Airbnb’s up and running and is excited about the possibilities his forthcoming properties could bring for people who want a nice place to consume cannabis while abiding by the law.
The excitement Floyd has around real estate and cannabis is one Lisa Campbell knows well.
She listed her two-bedroom home near Kensington Market on Airbnb as “420-friendly” for years before legalization.
“People can be shocked at the smell because I do consume cannabis in my house,” she said. “I didn’t want to have a guest that wasn’t comfortable with it.”
She recently moved out, but in her time offering the place for stays, she said guests mostly liked her welcoming attitude toward cannabis (aside from a family visiting from France with a young child, who didn’t understand what 420 signified).
Many guests loved that she could give them directions to nearby dispensaries and that she kept rolling papers, bongs and pipes on hand. They often returned the hospitality when they left by gifting her their leftover cannabis.
“I found cannabis guests to be better guests overall,” she said.
“I had some guests consume alcohol and had a huge party, and the police actually came. It was only when (guests) consumed alcohol that I had problems.”
Critics say sticker shock at cannabis prices will push customers back to the black market
Matt Daisley said his first visit to a legal cannabis retail outlet in St. Catharines, Ont. this week ended without a purchase after he heard the prices and almost had a heart attack.
“I knew immediately that I would not leave the black market,” he said. “There’s no chance.”
The 60-year-old is a longtime cannabis user and visited The Niagara Herbalist to check out its government-approved marijuana options after the store officially opened Monday. But, when he went up to the counter to buy 3.5 grams of MK Ultra, he said he was asked to pay $45 plus tax and was rocked by sticker shock.
His complaint about the comparatively high price of legal pot was a routinely heard one from customers during the first week of legal retail sales in the province.
The Ontario Cannabis Store says its products are priced to compete with the black market but critics, including a professor at Brock University, say buying illegally offers those willing to take the risk significant savings, meaning legal prices will have to drop if they want to bring in more customers and cut out the black market. Police have also pointed to affordable pricing as an important tool to combat organized crime’s involvement in the drug trade.
Daisley claims he could buy as much as seven grams of MK Ultra for about $40 from an illicit vendor online.
That’s what he plans to keep on doing, he told CBC News, adding the laws around black market weed and the consequences for purchasing it are still vague so he’s willing to go public about his concerns in hopes the government and retailers will listen.
“I’m making a conscious choice to use the black market rather as opposed to the legal market. I understand the ramifications of that,” he said. “[But] what can they really do to a 60-year-old guy who’s smoked for the better part of 25 years every day?”
The price has to be right to defeat organized crime
The laws around cannabis use in Canada are still evolving and need to be tested in court, so there’s “some validity” to Daisley’s point, according to Joe Couto, a spokesperson for the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.
He added police aren’t naive enough to think legalization means the black market will die overnight — especially if there’s a big price difference.
“I don’t know if the price is right,” he said, adding law enforcement officials have to trust the government to make those decisions.
“We’ve always recommended to them that if you don’t price the product at a market price obviously it does create pressures and black market activity.”
Cannabis has long been a source of income for organized crime in Canada, explained Couto, so police are concerned they’ll take advantage of the early stages of legalization to turn a profit.
“If we’re going to eliminate cannabis as a potential source to fuel criminal activities … obviously ensuring the product is accessible and is priced right is really important.”
Daisley said up his experience at The Niagara Herbalist was largely positive until he went up to the counter and found out how much he would be charged.
He said he’d prefer to purchase cannabis legally, but believes that, like him, the buying decisions for most cannabis consumers will be dollar-driven and the price tags raise questions about markup that will keep people out of legal stores.
Like comparing a ‘fine wine’ to moonshine
Hamilton-based cannabis consultant, Olivia Brown, disagrees. She says the quality legal outlets offer is worth paying for.
“I wouldn’t compare a $180 bottle of fine wine to moonshine just because it’s cheaper.”
Brown said the prices charged by private legal retailers are generally similar to those posted on the OCS online store, but added that, like gas stations, consumers could see a slight difference of $1-3 depending on which shop they’re in.
Still, Brown said she hears people complaining about the price of legal pot every day.
She agreed black market prices are lower than their legal counterparts, but pointed out government regulated cannabis is a big business that has to pay many employees and meet all sorts of standards.
“It’s very highly regulated, it’s very expensive to maintain and has huge operating costs.”
Brown also said cannabis is a product where you get what you pay for — there’s a reason the black market is so much more affordable.
“It’s probably grown outside by someone who may not know what they’re doing, they could be using pesticides or have all kinds of bugs or whatever,” she explained. “These people aren’t understanding the difference between really fantastic, lab-tested quality-grown, labeled, packaged beautiful products.”
Offering more options for purchasing those high-quality, legal products is the only way to make sure black market usage is really curbed, according to Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger.
The mayor’s comments came in response to recent criticism leveled at police and officials in Hamilton by Premier Doug Ford who said failure to shut down illegal dispensaries in the city was his “biggest frustration” when it came to cannabis legalization in Ontario.
OCS says legal cannabis is ‘competitively priced’
In a statement to CBC News a spokesperson explained the OCS buys its cannabis from producers licensed by Health Canada then sets a retail price, which can go up or down based on factors including market conditions, supply and the purchase price from producers.
“Armstong”- Michael Armstong, Brock University
Legal products are tested and “competitively priced” with the illegal market in mind, the statement read.
The spokesperson added the pricing structure for retailers allows them to set their own prices that “reflect their individual business models.”
On the OCS website MK Ultra, the same strain Daisley said he was trying to buy is listed from $12.85 / gram or $39.95 for 3.5 grams — though it does not appear to be currently available.
Customers need a discount option like ‘No Name’ weed
In the short term the limited number of stores in Ontario mean each location should be able to draw plenty of customers, but an associate professor at Brock University said big changes have to happen if government wants to compete for the long haul.
Michael Armstrong teaches at the Goodman School of Business and has been watching Canada’s foray into legalization closely.
“Absolutely the black market enjoys a big price advantage,” he said, pointing to a Statistics Canada report for the last quarter of 2018 showing the average price paid for legal, dried cannabis was $9.70, compared to $6.51 its illegal counterpart.
At some point, the pool of customers willing to pay up to 50 per cent more for a legal product will dry up and the stores will have to start appealing to people who are only willing to cough up something in the range of 25 cents more per gram.
Armstrong said the government has to be ready and offered a few suggestions for how to cut costs.
The first is lowering the overall production cost by going large scale, automating the process or moving growing operations outdoors. When those saving lead to a drop in price, the professor said provinces should lower their wholesale process so retailers can also sell for less.
Another obstacle is the federal government’s excise tax structure. Armstrong said excise tax currently varies by province, but the default is about $1 per gram minimum, which makes it tough to keep up with the black market.
“Even if a producer can make it really cheaply and a retailer is willing to sell it for a low price, that dollar is a big chunk.”
He argues the government should drop that minimum and just set the tax at 10 per cent.
Under that model a premium product could pay around $2 a gram in tax and an averageproducts could pay around $1, but retailers could offer a discount brand.
“Eventually the retail stores need to be able to sell something like a No Name cannabis, pre-rolled joints for maybe $5 a gram, maybe $3 bucks a half gram,” said Armstrong.
“To compete with the black market in the longer term absolutely we need some of the products priced low.”
Pot is now legal in Ontario. Here’s what you need to know
Everything you need to know about legalized pot and what’s to come in Ontario
How Canada Legalized Weed
It’s one of Justin Trudeau’s few policy wins, but he doesn’t deserve all—or even much—of the credit. SHARE TWEET
Holy shit. We made it. Weed will be legal in Canada on Wednesday. Ninety years of cannabis prohibition in the garbage where it belongs. Savour this unforgettable moment—at least until you space on it ten minutes after your first legitimate draw.
Anyway, the dark ages are over now so let’s never dwell on it again. But it’s worth tipping our hats to everyone who helped make this happen. Before you take a toke on Wednesday, thank a medicinal cannabis activist, because they’re the ones who did all the legal legwork.
Cannabis was first outlawed in 1923 (largely based on racist reasoning). Although a 1972 Royal Commission recommended it be decriminalized, there was no legal thaw around its use until the turn of the 21st century. In 2000, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that a blanket ban on all cannabis consumption violated the constitutional rights of those who used it for medicinal purposes. Terrence Parker’s case is the thin end of the wedge that would eventually split apart cannabis prohibition in Canada. Once the federal government accepted that it would have to sanction some cannabis use (and production), full legalization was only a matter of time. (Roughly 18 years, as it turns out.)
In 2001 the federal government brought in the Marihuana for Medical Access Regulations, its first set of laws codifying legal cannabis use. This allowed licensed medicinal users to grow their own plants, or purchase flower from a licensed grower. Both Liberal prime ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin tried to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis, but each were thwarted: the former by pressure from the US Drug Enforcement Agency, and the latter by the 2004 federal election.
But by the mid-aughts, the political will to liberalize drug policy in Canada had vanished. In the first year of his first minority government, Stephen Harper increased criminal penalties for possession and trafficking. Anyone illegally growing dope faced up to 14 years in prison.
While going extra aggro on non-violent drug offences was near and dear to Conservative hearts, neither legal precedent nor the national zeitgeist were on their side. The 2011 R v. Mernagh decision by the Ontario Superior Court gutted federal restrictions on cannabis so thoroughly it risked legalizing cannabis production all over Ontario and possibly the whole country. The ruling was overturned in early 2013 by the Ontario Court of Appeal, but it was clear by this time that the country’s cannabis laws were untenable.
The writing was on the wall by 2012, when the Liberals picked up full cannabis legalization as a party policy. The Conservatives, meanwhile, opted to double-down: they changed medical regulations to abolish all personal production licenses and force patients to register with licensed producers. Ironically, more than just setting the Crown up for a slam-dunk legal challenge, this sowed the seeds of a commercial cannabis industry by mandating mass cannabis production.
Regulations continued to fall apart in court. A Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2015 established that edibles, oils, and other concentrates were legitimate forms of medicinal cannabis, and thus legal to produce and possess—further bolstering and diversifying the production (and marketing) of cannabis in Canada.
By the time the Federal Court of Canada ruled in 2016 that medicinal users could grow their own supply, Justin Trudeau was prime minister and the full repeal of prohibition was already underway. But it does hammer home the point that legalization is an elegantly simple solution to this extremely stupid policy problem.
It’s difficult now to place the role legalization had during the 2015 election campaign. It wasn’t a central plank, but the promise of legal weed—along with electoral reform, deficit spending, peacekeepers, reconciliation, and a new Trudeau—helped to amplify the Liberals’ branding as the true champions of progressive Canadiana. Now it’s the twilight of Trudeau’s first term, and legal cannabis is one of the few landmark initiatives to actually be carried through. Perhaps it’s to help us cope with the about-face on everything else.
The journey of the Cannabis Act alone is another story. After a year of consultations with Canadians, in early 2017 the government brought in its first draft of weed law. (It also updated the Impaired Driving Act to vastly increase police powers to detect drugged drivers.) The Act set out the broad parameters of recreational use: anyone 18 and older can possess up to 30 grams in public, with the provinces able to tinker with that minimum legal age and whatever additional details they wanted. The whole thing sparked anticipation for a legalization date of July 1, 2018, but the Senate nearly torpedoed it at the 11th hour. The bill ultimately passed its final reading in June 2018—too late to save your Canada Day BBQ, but just in time to blow up your Halloween.
About the provinces: the feds get all the credit, but it’s the provinces doing all the heavy lifting. As a result, legal cannabis looks a little different everywhere in the country: legal age runs from 18 (Alberta) to 21 (Quebec), and in Manitoba and Quebec you won’t be able to grow your own plants. Also, in Ontario, the new Ford government spiked the old Liberal plan for a provincial monopoly less than a month out from the first day of legal sales. It will be sold in private stores, but not until sometime in April. Have fun!
So it’s been a long time coming, but here we are at last. Ironically, now that weed is legal it is likely to be policed more heavily than ever before. The cops can’t bust you just on account of holding a joint, but they can throw the book at you if try to buy in bulk or try to sell any on your own. Anyone who felt legalization should involve addressing the injustice of the drug war is justified in feeling less than euphoric about how many weed corporations are run by former prohibitionists—especially while those convicted under drug offences which no longer exist have no guarantees of amnesty.
The story isn’t over. The fight for amnesty continues, and legalization continues to unfold. Arguably the real cannabis boom is coming on October 17, 2019, when edibles are fully regulated. Beyond that, one hopes that the end of one ridiculous drug prohibition might be the begin of the end of them all. At a convention in Halifax earlier this year, Liberal membership signalled they would be interested in decriminalizing all drug use in Canada in the interests of harm reduction. The Liberal brass laughed it off—Trudeau has been emphatic that there is no interest in further changes to federal drug policy—but if the legalization of cannabis is successful it does seem to be the next logical step. North America remains mired in an opioid crisis, and Portugal has seen tremendous success in treating drug abuse as a social and medical problem instead of a criminal one. The prohibitions around medical use of other psychedelic drugs are also finally thawing; the therapeutic use of MDMA, LSD, ketamine, and psilocybin mushrooms may yet herald a revolution in psychiatry. This doesn’t mean we will ever see a day when the government is sanctioning a full-scale acid production and retail industry, but it does mean, God willing, we will someday soon reach a point where all drug war is relegated to a museum along with old film reels of Reefer Madness.
A more humane way to live together isn’t hard to imagine. All the easier, now, with a little bit of grass.