Niagara Falls weighs pros and cons of cannabis tourism
The province is asking for feedback on considering allowing licensed cannabis consumption lounges
Niagara Falls tourism officials think there's a chance American tourists will cross the border to smoke legal pot.
And they are asking whether the area should try to capitalize on American and other home-grown pot tourists by creating licenced pot lounges.
With the legalization of cannabis deadline approaching, the province is looking at considering allowing licensed cannabis consumption lounges and is asking the public to weigh in on its decision a questionnaire.
If they don't have it on the other side, it's certainly going to drive people to the Canadian side.- Wayne Thompson, Niagara Falls tourism chair
As Niagara Falls Tourism Chairman, Niagara Falls Coun. Wayne Thomson was sent the questionnaire to get feedback.
Thomson says he's suggested to the municipality that they become aware of the questionnaire and also to get the feedback from stakeholders in tourism to see what they have to say.
"We're just researching and trying to come up with what the stakeholders and give that information to the municipality and pass it on to the province so they know what our feelings are," said Thomson.
Last week, the province issued a request for public feedback on a slew of regulatory changes proposed to clarify where recreational and medical cannabis can be consumed.
Feedback for the right decision
Among them is the possibility of permitting "licensed and regulated cannabis consumption lounges and venues" sometime after legalization in July.
"At this point it's just strictly a questionnaire and trying to get feedback so they make the right decisions," said Thomson.
Under rules outlined in the fall, the province intends to sell marijuana in up to 150 stores run by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario to people 19 and older, with a ban on pot's consumption in public spaces or workplaces.
The proposal is being met with optimism by some cannabis activists and municipal politicians who say the provincial government's approach on where legal weed can be consumed has been too restrictive so far.
"At the present time you can't smoke in hotel rooms, you can't smoke in restaurants, you can't utilize cannabis really anywhere even if you're visitors so they're setting up separate or suggesting setting up separate locations that you could smoke in the rooms where there's smoking or you could eat any product that has cannabis in your rooms privately," said Thomson.
A border town
Thomson says this could impact tourism being next to the American border.
"They're just trying to get a feel of where they're going with respect to the whole approval and through a business point of view where there's certainly tourist areas are going to be affected, particularly if it's not approved in New York State," said Thomson. "If they don't have it on the other side it's certainly going to drive people to the Canadian side ... and you can't import it across the border so they would have to stay on the Canadian side."
When it comes to feedback, Thompson says it's all over the place.
"Some people feel the same as alcohol. They're concerned about people driving and being influenced by cannabis. There are other people who think it's a great opportunity for business and increase," said Thomson.
"We're just trying to do our job and make sure if this is approved that we have something in place that is acceptable for the stakeholders, appropriate for tourism locations and do our job."
With files from the Canadian Press