Experts agree by roughly this same time next year marijuana will be legal throughout the entire nation of Canada for medicinal and recreational use.
The particulars are still being discussed.
But leaders in Windsor are positioning themselves to be at the forefront of what they believe could become a multi-billion dollar business.
The Vape Lounge
Officials say medical marijuana is already legal in Canada.
But the system does not operate quite the same way it does in states that have legalized medical marijuana in the U.S.
For instance, there are no medical marijuana dispensaries in Canada.
But there are places where it can be used freely in public, though anti-smoking policies mean using some kind of vaporizer device.
So, in Windsor, some doctors direct patients to a “vape lounge” called Higher Limits.
Co-owner Jon Liedtke says it’s not exactly a party house.
“(Patients) can come and medicate themselves with no stigma,” he said. “We’re a safe zone, we have no alcohol in here. We removed an alcohol license. Cannabis and alcohol do not mix. Women particularly like coming in here. They can hang out, they can study, read, joke, not worrying about some guy or some roofie in their drinks.”
In fact Liedtke says the lounge has some pretty strict requirements.
“We have a very strong list of rules at the front door. First rule is you have to be 18. The second rule is this is a B-Y-O-C .You bring your own cannabis. There is no mooching, there is no swapping, there is no sharing, there is no selling. And our patrons are very strong on that and they keep an eye. They’re like our eyes. They don’t want to lose this. They don’t want some guy coming in here and trying to sell drugs and who knows, maybe there’s an undercover officer who sees it. Then we’re all in trouble,” Liedtke said.
Canada’s Cannabis Concerns
Law enforcement officials in Windsor still have concerns about what eventual legalization will look like on a number of levels.
In just one example, they say marijuana stays in the human body far longer than alcohol. So finding a type of breathalyzer that can detect whether someone is “driving while stoned” is a bit problematic.
A federal task force is touring Canada to find out what other difficulties could present themselves.
Windsor West Member of Parliament Brian Masse, for one, says he favors a go-slow approach for recreational marijuana, rather than the full legalization Canada’s prime minister and majority government is pursuing.
Masse said, “We did have a vote on decriminalization in the House of Commons and the vote was denied by the government. So we found that very curious because decriminalization just eliminates the criminal offense on a federal level.”
Windsor: The Weed Empire?
But some business leaders in Windsor say slowing the push towards legalizing recreational marijuana is, well, a pipe dream.
That includes the president of the Windsor-Essex Chamber of Commerce, Matt Marchand.
“We’re not cheerleading it,” he said. “We’re saying that the government is going to do it. They’ve said they’re going to do it, they have a majority government, it’s going to get done. We want to be at the table.”
Marchand says legalized marijuana could be a huge new stream of tax revenue for Canada. And he says it could become a lucrative business Windsor, in particular, is well suited for.
Marchand said, “We already have some of the leading medical marijuana producers in the country right now. And it’s an easy step from there to do recreational marijuana. We have the leading agriculture community in Canada, we have tremendous (research) that goes on in the agriculture sector. We have tremendous greenhouses. We lead the nation, if not North America, in terms of acreage. We have about 2,000 acres under glass right now and that’s gonna double probably in the next five to ten years.”
High on the List of Destination Points
But back at the Higher Limits vape lounge, Jon Liedtke says an influx of what he calls “cannabis tourism” crossing into Windsor over the busiest trade border between Canada and the U.S. presents issues the rest of his nation won’t have to face.
“Michigan alone has 12 million people. We know how Windsor bars live with the 19 year old Americans. What do you think this is gonna do for cannabis?”
Liedtke added, “They are gonna come over, they are gonna buy it, they’re gonna smoke it wherever they can and then they’re gonna go back home. Homeland Security’s gonna go nuts at the border. The dogs are gonna be barking left and right. Nobody’s gonna be having it on them but they’re all gonna smell of weed.”
Yet Liedtke predicts that expanding Canada’s current method of delivering medical marijuana to recreational purchases for the entire nation will offer possibilities that no other country, or individual U.S. state, can match.
He said, “You can order your cannabis online. It comes lovely packaged, (with) quality control, completely bug free, tested by labs, delivered to your home for seven, eight bucks a gram. Why do you want to buy from Dizzy the Dealer on the street? You don’t know what you’re getting. So I think a legal, controlled system the way Canada’s doing is a great system. I think we’re a model for the world. And actually countries are looking. Those pesky little Canadians, they might actually have this thing together.”
Canadian officials say that time is fast approaching.
Legislation to legalize marijuana for recreational use will likely be proposed next spring.
Officials predict it will become law by September or October of next year.