Manitoba is planning to once again go through a round of consultations over cannabis consumption spaces — more commonly known as cannabis lounges.
In a statement to Global News, Justice Minister Cameron Friesen says the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority intends to hear from the cannabis industry, stakeholders and the public in 2022.
“These consultations will help guide future policy around cannabis consumption spaces,” Friesen said.
The first round of consultations, which took place last year, garnered “mixed support” for the spaces according to a government report.
However, opinions may have been swayed by peoples’ reluctance to socialize during the pandemic, the report states.
“I really think (cannabis lounges) would give small business owners the ability to carve out a niche market for themselves to enable them to stand up not only against the big corporations, but also to differentiate themselves from the other guy down the street,” said Steven Stairs, a long-time cannabis advocate and chair of the Cannabis Business Association of Manitoba.
“The number of retail stores out there who are looking to expand their retail footprint into the lounge-consumption space market is Immense. It’s not everybody, but it’s definitely a large portion.”
Partly, Stairs says, that’s because businesses across the country — not just the cannabis sector — will be looking to get back on their feet in a post-pandemic world.
The government’s first consultation showed a slight majority of those polled disagreed with allowing cannabis consumption spaces.
A total of 800 online surveys were collected, with 43 per cent of respondents opposed to the sites, 39 per cent in favour, and 15 per cent neutral.
The main concerns were listed as the need for increased enforcement and public education, while new business opportunities and revenue streams for small businesses were seen as opportunities.
Stairs contends the landscape has changed since then, and the number of retailers has ballooned.
“The consensus among storefronts and owners was ‘let’s get through the pandemic. Let’s try to survive,” Stairs said of the previous consultation.
“So I think this again will give cannabis stores an option to survive and thrive with an option to cater to different clientele and carve themselves out a niche.”
Friesen says the second round of consultations is expected to begin in early 2022.