Vapour lounges are at the forefront of our recent cultural revolution. Washington and Colorado took the plunge as the first two American states to legalize marijuana, while others seem to be largely following suit progressively by decriminalizing it. Legalization talks are more and more present in Canada as Federal Liberal Party leader, Justin Trudeau, is very much in favour of the move. Even without pot being legalized, there are several loopholes in the law that allow many to sit back with some friends and light up.
Whereas marijuana might be illegal, vapour lounges are not. Anyone over the legal age can walk into a vapour lounge with their own supplies – selling is very much still illegal – rent out papers, vaporizers, or pipes, buy a coffee and some snacks and get high. Vapour lounges and cafes are prominent in places like Amsterdam, where any form of marijuana and the act of smoking it is legal, but these chilled out zones are rising in popularity even in places where pot has yet to become legal. Toronto, Vancouver and certain cities in the United States are taking the lead, bringing a kooky “Amsterdam” feel to the cityscape.
So why is it legal to provide a safe space for people to smoke pot in places where the drug is actually still illegal? First of all, privacy laws restrict anyone from asking for the medical status of your marijuana, so it could be prescribed. These vapour lounges don’t even need a specific license – most of them just have a business licence or a food establishment license. The majority of them run as regular coffee shops that sell beverages and food with the added feature of “vaping.” These lounges aim to provide a safe environment for people to do what they were probably going to do on the streets anyway, and to create a united and enlightened cannabis community. If you're undecided on the to-legalise-or-not-to-legalise question, perhaps a rundown of these five fascinating North American vapour lounges will help you make up your mind.
5 Club Ned - Colorado
The first cannabis café to open in Colorado, Club Ned's owners, a middle-aged couple, faced difficulties when they had to keep prolonging their grand opening due to complications with their license. Club Ned’s slogan is “a club with altitude” and it's an exclusive club only for pot smokers. The idea is to have an intimate, small space where people can choose to enjoy each other's company or to sit quietly in a corner and enjoy their joint without the usual judgmental looks that come with lighting up just anywhere. Club Ned is particularly special because it's the first business of its kind to open in Colorado and will probably pave the way for more in the newly legalized marijuana state.
4 Garden Lounge - Vancouver
The Vancouver Seed bank – the organisation which heads the cannabis culture in Vancouver – has opened up several Garden Lounges around the city. Each lounge is made up of an indoor and an outdoor vapour area. The outdoor garden is open during the day when weather permits and includes seating areas for people to set up their smoking circles. The indoor lounge is open into the night and includes an arcade center and free Internet access. People who have already been to the Garden Lounge say it has a very spiritual feel, where the employees and regular customers treat the garden as a special place to meet and interact with new people. They specialize in serving entheogenic (a chemical substance used in religious or spiritual contexts that can alter states of consciousness) and other herbal teas, and the cover charge is only $2.
3 The Vapor Spot - California
The Vapor Spot in Los Angeles is an interesting vapour lounge because they focus more on helping people quit smoking than anything else. Of course, it is still an area where people can come together to smoke marijuana, but their main attraction is the various “E-Liquids” they offer – which are flavoured water vapours that do not contain nicotine – for people to use with their electronic cigarettes. They also offer a variety of “flavoured oxygen” to help regulate people’s oxygen levels – caused by stress, fatigue, smoking or travelling - and boost their energy levels without having to consume any caffeine or other substances. The Vapor Spot has proved to be quite popular and has four locations in California, including Sacramento, West Los Angeles, Hollywood and Sherman Oaks.
2 Vapor Central - Toronto
Vapor Central is a vapour lounge located in the heart of downtown Toronto and is the largest lounge in the city. The lounge has developed quite a crowd – some are one-time experimenters and others are regulars – and it only costs $5 a head to get in, or you can purchase a weekly pass for $12, a monthly pass for $25, or if you're a really avid smoker, a year long membership for $92. Not only does Vapor Central provide a wide range of different vaporizers and pipes to either rent or purchase, it also hosts weekly events. “Weedy Wednesdays”, the “Cannabis Comedy Hour”, “3rd Klass Thursdays” and “Stoner Sundays” are all events that feature live music performances and stand up comedians to provide entertainment for customers.
1 Mega ILL - Vancouver
Vancouver is a city known for its subculture of weed, so it make sense that they had a pioneering idea for a vapour lounge – a pizza joint. Mega ILL is run by patients prescribed medical marijuana and strives to offer healthy food within a pot-friendly environment. Getting stoned and eating pizza has been happening for the longest time, but specifically going to a restaurant that provides you with an acceptable place to get stoned and eat pizza is a novel idea. Mega ILL is the first medical marijuana restaurant in Vancouver and differs from the rest by actually boasting a menu, a chef and waitresses. The idea, first and foremost, is to provide people with great food - and you can bring your own weed.
They have grinders, pipes and vaporizers on the tables and if you provide over-18 identification and a medical marijuana card you can even order pot-infused pizza. One of the two owners, Mark Klokeid, was inspired to open this restaurant when he was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Ten years later, after much chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants and medical marijuana, Klokeid decided to give other sufferers the opportunity to embrace something that has been shown to be much safer than other substances and can actually make you feel better.