October 17, 2018 is the set date for the legalization of cannabis in Ontario. So what does that mean for Ontario restaurants, bars and hospitality services? Will weed brownies now be available in local cafes?!
We had a chat with Chris James, owner of downtown Toronto cafe Cannabis and Coffee to get his insight on how the new rules around cannabis will affect the restaurant industry. We were also curious to learn more about his plans for Cannabis and Coffee once legalization takes effect!
Chris James, is one of Toronto’s cannabis “pot-repreneurs” (As per Now Magazine) who has been who has been raising awareness about cannabis through this legalization process. His Cafe Cannabis and Coffee located at 346 Front Street Toronto, provides guests with cannabis information, accessories and coffee. Chris hopes to infuse his menu items with cannabis down the road.
Ok so here’s what we know from the Ontario Government about the legalization of cannabis so far:
- The legal age to buy, use, possess and grow recreational cannabis in Ontario will be 19.
- You will be able to smoke cannabis in many outdoor public places (e.g. sidewalks, parks).
- You will be able to smoke cannabis in private residences – this does not include residences that are also workplaces (e.g. long-term care and/or retirement homes).
- You will be able to purchase up to 30 grams (about one ounce) of dried recreational cannabis at one time for personal use.
- As of October 17, 2018, the Ontario Cannabis Store website will be the only legal option for purchasing recreational cannabis.
In terms of legalized cannabis and the food industry, there is no government information currently for restaurants about how to navigate these unchartered waters, but Chris offered us some advice on how to integrate cannabis culture with a strategic approach.
Understand Your Consumer
First and foremost, he discussed the importance of understanding your consumer. There will definitely be consumers eager for cannabis integration but on the flipside, there will be many consumers and restaurant goers that aren’t willing to completely embrace it. That being said, Chris expresses the importance of getting feedback from existing customers. This can be done through social media surveys or a simple questionnaire in the billfold after a meal. Ask your customers what they want to see in the upcoming months of legalization, do they want to see more products marketed towards cannabis consumption or would they prefer you as a restaurant to disassociate?
The parliamentary health committee decided last fall that edibles would need to be included in Bill C-45 if the country was going to adopt a comprehensive approach to the legalization of cannabis. This puts forward a huge opportunity for the food and restaurant sector to engage in a considerably profitable packaged edibles market.
CBD Oil: First Opportunity for Restaurants
Chris presumes that this will kick off with the integration of Cannabidiol or CBD oil (a product likely to be taken off the “restricted” list in the next few months) into food and drink products. CBD oil is made from extracting cbd from the cannabis plant, and does not produce any of the psychoactive effects that THC does. Essentially, CBD oil will be the hottest new health product that helps with everything from epileptic seizures to anxiety, to inflammation and sleeplessness without the sensation of getting “high”. CBD oil is likely to be less regulated than THC and will therefore be less regulated allowing for easy integration into food products without the risk of overconsumption.
Chris talked about a coffee shop in California where “Coffee with a shot of CBD” was available to purchase for around $10.The cost of production is likely close to $2 but because of the trendiness of this product, profit margins are high. CBD oil will likely become the latest health craze similar and getting behind it, knowing that it will quickly be taken of the restricted list will situate restaurants above their competitors.
Impact on Alcohol Sales
Chris also predicts a decline in liquor sales across the board, as consumers might opt to substitute alcohol consumption with Cannabis, to avoid the dreaded morning hangover during the work week.