have already deemed that smoking cigarettes is not acceptable.” In November, provincial Associate Minister of Health Dipika Damerla said patients would be allowed to vape in public, but just one day later he said the government was reconsidering its policy. And it’s that abrupt about turn, without any public consultation at the time, that has some critics of the amendments frustrated. “Quite clearly, the government didn’t take any time to think it through before proposing the amendments,” says Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky (NDP). “It’s disappointing and frustrating for business owners to be facing this uncertainty after spending thousands of dollars to set up their businesses.” Gretzky says “Jon’s point is valid in that people prescribed medical marijuana should be able to take it in a ‘compassion lounge’ where they will be accepted and not judged.” Amendments to the bills have already gone through First and Second Reading at Queen’s Park and the government conducted a public comment and consultation process, which expired on April 24. David Jensen, a spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, says there were no timelines in place for the amendments to take effect. “We will analyze all the feedback and public comments collected during this process and move ahead in a timely fashion,” says Jensen. If the amendments pass as proposed, they would ban the smoking of marijuana in public spaces under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act and also ban the use of e-cigarettes and medical marijuana vapourizers in public spaces under the Electronic Cigarettes Act. But, there are those who believe a distinction should be made between smoking marijuana and inhaling its vapours from a vapourizer or atomizer. Jeff Yurek, Conservative MPP for ElginMiddlesex-London, stated during a recent 2nd Reading debate on the issue, that he believes “it is not in the public’s interest to have medical marijuana smoked wherever you please.”
Inside Higher Limits a display case and a counter are filled with medical marijuana accessories available for sale at the new downtown Windsor business.
“I think there’s a time and place to take your medication and that’s what medical marijuana is,” says Yurek. “As such, as with any medication, there are side effects and second-hand smoke from medical marijuana may not be beneficial for others around you in public.” But, Yurek believes vaping should be treated differently. “I seriously hope the government is listening to the owners of vape businesses and trying to work with them to ensure they don’t legislate them out of business,” Yurek comments. “I’d hate to see people having to purchase vape products online from a vendor — who knows where the product is coming from.” Liedtke says that even that compromise would greatly impact his business model and believes a blanket exemption should be made for people taking their medication either by smoking it or vaping it. “The Premier has said she is in favour of safe injection sites where people can take otherwise illegal drugs and to place the needs of illegal drug users ahead of the rights of medical marijuana users is reprehensible,” says Liedtke. “We also offer a safe environment.” Lucier says he just wants his business to be treated the same as similar businesses across Canada. “We want to be considered a compassion club where people are able to take their
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medication in any way they see fit,” adds Lucier. “We also want to be licensed as a distributor so that we can supply medical marijuana to those who have legal prescriptions.” Lucier continues, “We would be no different than any of the other businesses, which have already been licensed to distribute legally.” Compassion lounges and medical marijuana dispensaries have been operating in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia for more than 20 years because of a longstanding difference of opinion between the judicial system and the government over patient rights and their access to medical marijuana. “Not long ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said ‘a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian’,” says Lucier. “If that is truly the case, then I want my business to be treated the same as similar businesses across this country.” Both Lucier and Liedtke have invested thousands of dollars on equipment and accessories, in their new ventures, and both are hoping rules and regulations will be put in place to enable them to continue operating. At Higher Limits, patrons pay a $5 daily cover charge and must provide their own medical marijuana. There are snacks, pop and juices available for purchase as well as a small counter where patrons can purchase marijuana accessories. No alcohol is allowed on the premises and, in fact, Liedtke surrendered the liquor license of the previous business before opening.