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Newshawk: CMAP ( )
Votes: 0
Pubdate: Mon, 08 Sep 2003
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2003, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Tu Thanh Ha
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


MONTREAL -- In many Montreal restaurants, you can bring your own booze. So what might be the next logical step?

"It'll be bring-your-own-buzz," says Hugo St-Onge.

The leader of the Bloc Pot, a provincial pro-marijuana party, he wants to open a cafe where you can light up your own cannabis.

And he isn't alone. Across Canada, a small but growing number of coffee houses encourage customers to bring their own joints, taking advantage of the current legal ambiguity over simple possession of cannabis.

The Bloc Pot's project suffered an unexpected setback yesterday when the landlord of the cafe that was to open Oct. 1 got wind of the move and complained he hadn't given his approval.

Nevertheless, the idea is mushrooming across the nation.

In Montreal, organizers envision an alternative coffee house in the Latin Quarter. In Toronto, the promoter doesn't want a hippie hangout and promises instead pool tables and pinball machines.

Whatever the style, pot proponents hope that, at a time when other restaurants are trying to curb smoking, theirs will be places where smokers of a certain type are welcome. Opened five years ago in pot-tolerant Vancouver, Blunt Brothers cafe used to be the sole establishment of the type in the country.

But now, within the last six months, bring-your-own-joint shops have sprung up in Saint John, London, Ont., and Toronto, where the Hot Box will be joined this fall by a similar coffee house.

"The whole country is changing tremendously. This was inevitable," said Dominic Cramer, director of Toronto's second cannabis cafe. "We intend to break no laws. There will be no trafficking."

Promoters of those coffee houses are gambling the current lenient climate will shield their customers from legal troubles.

"Better there than on the streets. It gives us a place we can call our own," said Boris St-Maurice, leader of the federal Marijuana Party.

In Ontario, the courts have ruled that the federal law banning marijuana possession no longer applied because Ottawa failed to comply with a previous court order to create a new legislation.

While the rulings is being appealed, Justice Minister Martin Cauchon has tabled new legislation where possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis would only be a minor offence.

That bill hasn't been enacted yet however, and in that muddled context, some police forces have not been laying charges in cases involving small amounts of pot.

As for Mr. Cramer's Time's High Cafe, "we're not a granola place. We'll have a pool table, pinball machines," he said.

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