New outdoor space to smoke cannabis opens on Exhibition Place grounds

At Grand Bizarre, customers can swim, eat, drink, mingle and now, if they fancy, stroll around the corner and smoke cannabis in a restricted area.

Cannabis Carnival is being touted as one of the first of its kind in Ontario — a dedicated place to smoke cannabis that its president, Zlatko Starkovski, says is in line with the Smoke Free Ontario Act.

“I think cannabis smokers in general need a safe, 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 over-consuming so we’re taking a proactive approach for cannabis smokers now that it’s been legal since 2018.”

Starkovski notes there are plenty of places to buy cannabis, but not many designated spots to consume it. He says Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Ontario Cannabis Store are educational partners.

“We’ve checked all the boxes to make sure that we’re avoiding second-hand smoke, as well,” he said.

“There’s no alcohol being served in the cannabis area … and we don’t sell cannabis, you bring your own.” Starkovski said, adding that being at 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 lecturer at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Toronto Metropolitan University, says the space is a creative idea and he expects to see more like it.

“We’re definitely going to see more of these things pop up as people discover what you can and can’t do,
  with respect to the rules around consumption of cannabis, especially smoking,” he said.

Cannabis Carnival will be open for the rest of the summer, but could also become a permanent fixture on the Exhibition Place grounds. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

“Because there are many places where you cannot smoke cannabis … I definitely think we’ll have a cannabis lounge industry at some point in time,” Poulos said, adding it was already happening prior to legalization.

The province says it has started some consultations on consumption lounges.

George Smitherman, president and CEO of the Cannabis Council of Canada, says spaces like this are a step toward the normalization of cannabis consumption.

“It’s mostly beneficial for the consumer of cannabis, who, even though we’ve had legalization, was kind of forced to consume behind the dumpster,” he said.

And while Smitherman says it’s not easy to set up a location like this within the province’s regulations, he believes there is an appetite for it and the chance for the industry to enhance tourism.

“I do think we’re going to see a lot of evolution in this space over time,” he said. 

“Keep in mind we’re talking mostly about outdoor consumption because we’re talking about dry flower cannabis, but there’s an exciting array of other products that would lend itself to indoor consumption, like edibles, beverages and even infused foods.”

For now, the outdoor space at Grand Bizarre will be open for the summer, with the potential for it to become permanent in the future.

Cannabis Carnival is located at Grand Bizarre on the Exhibition Place grounds. (Paul Borkwood / CBC)
Cannabis Carnival is located at Grand Bizarre on the Exhibition Place grounds. (Paul Borkwood / CBC)

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