London, Ontario. Man wants Canada to allow cannabis restaurants and cafes


One London, Ontario. A man who dreams of opening a pot-themed restaurant says he’s in for the long run as he urges the provincial and federal governments to allow cannabis-infused foods in restaurants and cafes in Canada.

Jeremy Smith says he has spent the past year figuring out how to do this, contacting a number of decision makers in the Canadian cannabis industry such as Ontario’s Department of Health and Health Canada.

“I was told I needed a proof of concept, so a petition would be a great way to do that,” said Smith.

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This prompted him to launch two petitions: an electronic petition filed with the federal government that was posted on the House of Commons website last week, and another petition that collects handwritten signatures for the Ontario government and distributed to over 100 cannabis retailers can be found across the province.

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“I’m looking at over 10,000 signatures in southern Ontario,” said Smith.

Smith, who plans to open a cannabis restaurant called Les Munchies, says he was first drawn to the cause after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and eosinophilic esophagitis.

Smith was then prescribed prednisone and after three weeks of use began to experience difficulty breathing and pain in his arms and neck.

“It turned out I had double blood clots in my lungs, blood clots on my neck, arm and legs, and a blood clot hit my heart … after that I was in extreme pain, so they gave me pain medication,” Smith said, adding the pain reliever eventually slurred speech, blurred vision and mobility problems.

“They thought it was a stroke, but it turned out to be swelling around my pituitary gland.”

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In search of alternative forms of treatment, Smith eventually looked into the use of CBD, an active ingredient in cannabis that has been touted for its medicinal benefits such as reducing inflammation or relieving stress and anxiety. THC, another active ingredient in cannabis, is known for its psychoactive properties and has been linked to providing the high that users get from consuming cannabis.

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Given Smith’s condition, smoking CBD was not an option, so a consumable form was the way to go.

“The problem with edibles right now, most of them are sugar-based, your chocolates, your candy, so people like me with Crohn’s disease or people with diabetes, it doesn’t sit well,” said Smith.

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If his push for law changes is possible, Smith would like his restaurant to offer healthy options for cannabis-infused foods, be it CBD for medicinal purposes or THC for recreational use.

“The number of people who tell me their stories and how it would help them and their health concerns makes it all worth it,” said Smith.

“It’s a great feeling to know that I can help more people like me.”

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Toronto-based attorney Matt Maurer is co-chair of the Cannabis Law Group at Torkin Manes LLP and has been consulted by Smith for advice on the law initiative.

“I said to Jeremy, I can tell you what needs to be changed about the law and what it looks like,” Maurer told Global News.

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“But to get that political willpower, you need a lobbyist or someone with experience in government to find out what the levers are and where the best places are to pull those levers.”

What needs to be changed legally is a complex issue given the current legal framework for cannabis-infused foods.

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Kitchens that make the food would need a Health Canada Cannabis Act license, Maurer said.

If a license were obtained from Health Canada, these kitchens could potentially make edibles, but would still need another license to sell those edibles from the provincial government.

“To make these products in the kitchen, the federal level needs to change … there are even bans on making edible products in the same facility that makes other non-cannabis-infused products,” said Maurer, adding that kitchens are an alternative to prepackaged products could sell if the state government allows.

“A number of changes would have to be made. It wouldn’t be too difficult to do it if there was the political will to do so. “

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When it comes to decision-making, Maurer said, the question is still open whether the public support in Smith’s petitions will lead to legislative action.

“You’d think if the hospitality industry could really push for it and show some economic benefit while at the same time convincing everyone that there is a surefire way to do this … maybe that’s what it takes,” said Bricklayer.

“Tens of thousands of people support it – I don’t know if that alone is enough, maybe it is, maybe not.”

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Smith is currently assisted by NDP MP Charlie Angus of Timmins-James Bay, whose name is attached to the electronic petition in the House of Commons.

The province’s petition is being sent to a number of MPPs that Smith hopes will bring the matter up in Queen’s Park when the Ontario Legislature returns from its summer recess in September.

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As for Les Munchies, Smith says he has a number of visions on the horizon depending on how legal action goes, but he wants the restaurant to open in London.

His edible endeavor has also attracted the interest of a number of chefs across the country and other actors in the Canadian food industry that he is as yet unable to pinpoint.

“This is associated with big names that are all legalized and can actually open the restaurant.”

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