In the five months since recreational cannabis became legal nationwide, it has been making inroads into public life. It will take another step forward in June when it is featured at a major beer festival in Canada’s biggest city.
The thousands of people who go to the Toronto Craft Beer Festival at Ontario Place to enjoy craft beers and ciders will also be able to hang out on a special patio and smoke weed. The aptly named “Pot-io” is the result of a collaboration between festival organizers and the owner of Canada’s first cannabis lounge.
“We want to offer people a place to come down from the beer,” said Abi Roach, founder of HotBox Cafe in Toronto’s Kensington Market. She added that visitors won’t have to consume cannabis to enjoy the patio.
The smokers lounge at Ontario Place will be retrofitted to accommodate the special patio, ensuring that safety and health codes are not violated. (Visitors will have to be at least 19 years old, the legal age for consuming recreational cannabis in Ontario.)
Roach has put together a team of experts who will serve customers on the patio and answer any cannabis-related questions they may have, whether about terpenes, cannabinoids or even methods of consumption. She believes education about cannabis is important, and not just in a setting where alcohol is consumed.
Abi Roach, Hotbox
“Cannabis can be fun and relaxing but we need to educate the public about it,” Roach told Leafly. “I have devoted my last 15 years to doing that.” Roach is a well-known cannabis advocate who has operated her lounge in Toronto’s Kensington Market since 2000. She notes that the Hotbox mantra is “harm reduction, safe consumption, and education.”
Roach said some of the people she has spoken to about the “POT-io” are surprised it’s legal, especially given that Ontario Place is a provincial facility. “I let them know that cannabis can be ingested legally in this province wherever smoking is allowed. Some of these people are surprised to learn that we are working within the system.”
Roach, who has plans to open seven new Hotbox lounges across Canada and the US this year through a holding company, says it’s just a matter of time before cannabis is featured at other festivals and events.
“Once we get over the stigma about cannabis fully and people get used to it being around, we’ll see cannabis tents at events the way we now see beer tents,” she said.