Windsor marijuana vaping lounge threatened by Ontario ban

Proposed legislation, announced Thursday, would make it illegal to smoke or vape anywhere regular cigarettes are prohibited.
Jon Liedtke, owner of Higher Limits vaping loung, could have to close up shop because of the Ontario government's plan to ban ban e-cigarette and medical marijuana users from smoking in public spaces. (Ioana Draghici/CBC)

The owner of Windsor's first marijuana vaping lounge hopes new provincial legislation will not shut him down, just more than a month after opening his doors. 

Jon Liedtke, owner of Higher Limits vaping lounge, was flooded with calls from concerned customers Thursday morning after they heard about Ontario's plan to ban ban e-cigarette and medical marijuana users from smoking in public spaces.

"I find it very disheartening," he told CBC News. "Medical marijuana users should be able to light a joint, use a vaporizer, edibles extracts — whatever they want."

The proposed legislation, announced Thursday, would make it illegal to smoke or vape anywhere regular cigarettes are prohibited.

"We have made a determination that smoking whatever it is — whether it's vaping, whether it's medical marijuana, whether it's cigarettes — that there should be restrictions on that," Premier Kathleen Wynne said Thursday.

Higher Limits opened in downtown Windsor at the corner of Ouellette and University avenues in late January.

Christopher Robert told CBC News he visits the lounge every other day. Sitting at the main bar at Higher Limits, he sips his tea, while grinding down his marijuana.

Robert calls the proposed changes, which could shut down the lounge, "illogical," suggesting that places like Higher Limits provide medical marijuana users a safe place to go without any judgement.

Liedtke accused the government of perpetuating a negative stigma about medical marijuana users.

"I just don't think trying to demonise a whole slew of medical users is a smart way to decrease tobacco use," he said.

Regulations

Windsor doesn't have any bylaws regulating vaping lounges, but higher Limits has been able to operate through a provincial business license.

The lounge prohibits the use of tobacco, alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs.

Current provincial tobacco laws make no mention of marijuana, which is why Higher Limits can legally operate a smoking and vaping lounge that caters to medical marijuana users.

Because smoking cigarettes is illegal inside Higher Limits, it had to remove all ashtrays, which cannot be kept inside any business under Ontario's tobacco laws.

The province's e-cigarette rules were supposed to come into effect Jan. 1, but new federal medical marijuana exemptions, put those plans on hold.

With files from Ioana Draghici, Canadian Press

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