Pickering vape lounge will allow members to smoke pot in relaxing environment

Holistic vape lounge Natural Budz opening its doors on Oct. 21

PICKERING — A Pickering couple has high hopes for the opening of their holistic vape lounge that allows marijuana users to smoke cannabis in a comfortable environment.

Tiara Sillet, born and raised in Pickering, and her wife, Annelene Sillet, are holding the grand opening of Natural Budz on Saturday, Oct. 21 from noon to midnight, when people can get in for free.

The Krosno Boulevard business will offer daily, weekly and monthly memberships, which include entry to the lounge plus the use of vaporizers. Cannabis meditation sessions will take place Friday afternoons.

The lounge will allow people to smoke from a pricey vape — specifically, Volcano vaporizers — which the couple said is one of the healthiest methods of cannabis consumption. Members can also rent bongs and pipes if they prefer.

Air purifiers will help clear the air. Cannabis merchandise such as bongs, pipes, and grinders, as well as snacks and refreshments, will also be for sale.

But there will be no cannabis sold on the premises. Visitors have to bring their own, must be 19 or older and cannot drink alcohol on site.

While the Sillets encourage people with medical marijuana licenses to consume the drug on the premises, they will not be checking these licenses at the door.

While the couple insists many locals, including nearby business owners, seem to be on board, at least one person has a problem with the establishment.

“As much as I know they’re going to run a tight ship, outside those doors who knows what’s going to happen here?” said Ward 2 Regional Councillor Bill McLean.

He had asked city staff at an executive committee meeting to look into regulating such establishments.

Tiara, a University of Toronto graduate, spent her entire years at school focusing on cannabis and legislation. She found there were many lounges in Toronto, which they would visit, and noted they only know of one vape lounge in Durham, which is no longer in operation. It seemed to have operated under the radar.

“We wanted to take a different approach,” said Tiara, the company’s CEO. “We didn’t want that sketchy vibe that often goes along with cannabis.”

Tiara is a medical marijuana user for insomnia and anxiety, as well as lower back pain from a snowboarding fall she can’t shake.

“At the end of the day, it’s extremely beneficial for so many different things,” she said.

Annelene is a physiotherapist, and believes in a healthy, holistic lifestyle.

The couple recently met a woman who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She was interested in consuming medical marijuana, but didn’t want to consume it around her children.

“This place is for people exactly like her,” said Annelene, co-CEO.

Tiara said it’s also for those who cannot smoke in areas that do not allow smoking — a condo building perhaps — and don’t want to smoke out on the street.

Marijuana is supposed to be legal in Canada as of next July. Since 2015, medical marijuana users can smoke in many spaces where smoking cigarettes is otherwise banned.

“Medical marijuana you can smoke almost anywhere,” said Tiara. “Still, it’s very frowned upon. From Oshawa to Pickering, there are a lot of medical marijuana patients who have nowhere to go.”

“We’re really trying to follow the law to the best of our ability,” she said.

But it’s a difficult area, one on which many seem unclear, as medical marijuana users can light up just about anywhere in Ontario, and legalization legislation is coming down the pipe.

To McLean, the bottom line is smoking weed is not legal in Canada at this time, and he does not feel the lounge is appropriate.

“I think it’s more of a social thing, as opposed to a medicine thing,” he said of the lounge.

McLean is skeptical whether the lounge will even be able to operate, and believes the city has to start working on regulations surrounding marijuana.

He said if marijuana becomes legalized as planned, “(a vapour lounge) should be licensed, it should be regulated, it should be in designated areas where it could operate.”

He does not believe the lounge suits a plaza, especially in a neighbourhood with families living nearby.

“I have to be the bearer of the bad news for them, but even if it was legal, I’d have a real issue with it,” he said.  “Even if you want to equate it to a liquor-licensed establishment, there’s regulations on them.”

Tiara also believes regulations — ones that consider the needs of all involved — are needed for the successful operation of vaping lounges.

She said she’s shared her plans for opening up the lounge with Durham police officers, and has told her local councillors.

Durham Regional Police Const. George Tudos said if the shop were selling marijuana, it would definitely be illegal.

“There’s so many different things that we would have to look into,” he said. “It would be something that would be under our radar, making sure it’s not in contravention of the law. We want to make sure everyone is working within the parameters of the law.”

Kyle Bentley, Pickering’s director of city development and chief building official, said at the time, there is no wording within the city’s zoning bylaws that specifically address permissible uses associated with cannabis.

“There was never any wording that was spoken to this one way or another, and it’s something we’ll have to address as we see something coming from the federal or provincial levels,” he said.

He said the city is hesitant to put any new bylaws into place now, as both consultations and guidelines from the province regarding the management of marijuana are starting later this fall.

“It’s very difficult for municipalities to put out any current zoning info one way or another without having a full breadth of what the legislative changes will be,” he said.

Kristen Calis is a reporter with Metroland Media Group’s Durham Region Division. She can be reached at KCalis@durhamregion.com . Follow DurhamRegion.com on Twitter and Facebook

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