High Times in Etobicoke

These are high but uncertain times to be living in south Etobicoke. Literally.

Area residents have mixed feelings about the city’s newest pot-puffing “vapour lounge” that has rolled out a welcome mat in their struggling neighbourhood.

Some concerned residents have complained to Ward 6 councillor Mark Grimes about the open use of marijuana taking place inside Vape On The Lake that opened last November on Lake Shore Blvd. W., near Islington Ave.

The smoking of different strains of homegrown and government-issued weed has been taken to new heights at Vape. Users, who range from social smokers to holders of medical marijuana permits, can bring their own pot, or hashish, to the lounge.

There it can be is inhaled through temperature-controlled vapourizers, bongs (glass pipes), in joints or other gear that can be rented or purchased.

The dimly-lit lounge is clean and filled with large, comfortable sofas and surrounded by large screen TVs. Members have access to computer games, Internet, satellite radio or can shop for rolling papers, pipes and other paraphernalia.

Downstairs is a showroom containing rows of decorative glass products that include hundreds of bongs, pipes and pot-smoking creations. Some of the designer-made pipes sell for as much as $12,000 each.

Vape also sells kilos of marijuana seeds to growers across Canada. They do not export seeds to the U.S., unlike B.C.’s former Prince of Pot, Marc Emery, who is serving a five-year term in the U.S. for selling cannabis seeds.

Vape owner and marijuana entrepreneur Marco Rendo suffers a coughing fit as he inhales marijuana from a large plastic bag inserted in a vapourizer, a device that blows vapour through a small amount of weed into the bag.

“This is good stuff,” Rendo coughs. “We don’t sell the marijuana here but people bring their own stuff and smoke it here.”

He pinches a couple grams of weed from several ounces of his “personal stash” contained in a plastic container and fills a Volcano brand vapourizer as he prepares for another hit and more coughing.

“I have my own supplier,” he says. “Most of my staff have permits to use marijuana for medical purposes.”

His lounge is opened to anyone over the age of 18 providing they are a member. He will accept a minor with a marijuana permit who is accompanied by a guardian. A day pass cost $5 and no alcohol or tobacco products are allowed.

Rendo said members are known to staff and many have their own vapourizers and water pipes.

“People can stay here and smoke for as long as they want,” he says. “There is no time limit.”

He said Vape employs 10 workers and the lounge brings money into the community, mostly through the sale of food and munchies to customers from stores and restaurants nearby.

Rendo said Toronto Police have visited the lounge twice at his invitation and there’s been no problems.

“The reaction from the community has been very encouraging,” he says. “We are here and I don’t think we are going to please everyone.”

Rendo said most members use marijuana to control pain or for medical purposes.

“People are more comfortable when they see we are not a drug den or that we don’t sell hard drugs,” he says. “The government is selling marijuana for health care and we are offering people a place to use it.”

Staff said patrons are out of luck if they try to buy weed at the lounge. Rendo said those searching for pot are sent to a health center where they can arrange to visit a doctor to obtain a permit, which has to be renewed yearly.

“We want to change the negative stigma that is attached to cannabis use,” he says. “We want to change the stigma that now exists.”

Rendo claims the opening of Vape has helped to get rid of crackheads and prostitutes who used to linger in front of his premises. Police and community members aren’t sure of that claim.

“Our neighbours said they see less prostitutes and crack use now that we have opened up,” he says. “People from all over come to us because we are the only lounge in the west-end of the city.”

He also publishes Treating Yourself Magazine and is staging the third Annual Treating Yourself Expo on May 25-27 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

The show features everything to do with marijuana.

Vape is one of seven vapour lounges in the City of Toronto. They are under review as officials try to determine what type of licence, if any, should be issued to govern them.

Toronto Police Const. Tony Vella said there has been no complaints against the club.

“The matter (licensing) is being looked into,” Vella says. “At this time there has been no complaint filed.”

Shane King, 25, says it took him two years to obtain a marijuana permit but first he had to find a doctor to accept him as a patient.

“It is very hard to get a licence,” King says. “I had to find a doctor who was willing to sign for me.”

He suffered from a number of medical ailments including chronic pain when he literally went to pot.

“There are lot of people on a waiting list for medical marijuana,” he says.

“This place (Vape) is comfortable and people can come in an medicate themselves.”

Soon-to-be-dad and lounge regular Jack Loudamok, 59, said he tokes to overcome depression.

“It helps me when I come here,” Loudamok says. “This is a nice place and the people are friendly and welcoming.”

Rene Frank, who suffers from chronic pain, said the lounge provides a safe and discreet refuge for smokers.

“The club is open to members only but everyone is welcomed,” Frank says.

“Marijuana is natural and has no bad side effects as other medications.”

Grace Madeiros, owner of nearby Taste Portuguese Cuise, said she hasn’t heard of any complaints either.

“I don’t have any problems as long as everything is legal and they are following the rules,” Madeiros says. “I don’t have an issue if everything is done above board.

More than 4,000 people in Canada are legally entitled to grow and take medicinal marijuana for various illnesses, government statistics show.

Health Canada grants these patients a certain amount of legal cannabis for their ailments, that includes AIDS, arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, depression, mental illness, epilepsy, glaucoma, chronic pain, post traumatic stress and migraines.

Health Canada obtains its pot and seeds from Prairie Plant Systems Incorporated, a company specializing in the growing, harvesting and processing of plants for pharmaceutical products and research.

– Article originally from Toronto Sun.