By David Tuchman
For some reason the noise in the room feels suppressed. It’s quiet, muffled. Everyone is relaxed. In these the hazy halls of Vapor Social, a new phenomenon is taking place: Vaping.
It’s hump day, and a thin layer of smoke swirls out of the door as some friends and I step inside the College Street lounge.
The room is so hazy that it is dizzying at first. The gentle aromas of flavourful smoke with hints of weed tickle my nose. We drift towards a booth and take a seat. Across from us, a group of guys munch on potato chips and play a friendly soccer match on a PlayStation.
“I started smoking from a vaporizer about five years ago,” Dylan, a new customer and long time marijuana advocate, said. “My chest started to hurt a lot from coughing so I decided that it was time to try one of these things out. I’ve been pretty much hooked ever since.”
One of the big reasons vaporizing is becoming so popular is the safety in delivering the drug to the user. In comparison to smoking traditionally, the respiratory hazards of combustion are essentially eliminated by a vaporizer emitting water vapor that is 95 per cent carcinogen and smoke free.
The Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics defines vaping as: ‘a technology designed to deliver inhaled cannabinoids while avoiding the respiratory hazards of smoking.’ Vaporizing marijuana is essentially using a device to heat up the marijuana bud into a water medium. The vapors are inhaled as easily as steam in a shower.
Most commonly the vaporizers are sleek devices made of brushed aluminum, coloured LED lights and a rather simple user experience. There are also large block-like volcano vaporizers that inflate a bag of vapor, which is then passed around like a clear-coloured balloon.
“If you’re smoking it, it is laden with pathogens and tar and other stuff that is really toxic,” said Johnathan Werynski, a clinician at Canadian Cannabis Clinics, “nothing is without concern completely, but [vaping] is probably the safest way to ingest medical cannabis, all things being equal.”
Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada have promised to legalize weed. Cannabis advocates of all types are flocking to the idea of legally vaping in lounges similar to Vapor Social, one of many vapor lounges popping up across Toronto that are taking advantage of this new trend.
“People are finding it’s easier to access,” said Camille Salter, owner of Vapor Social. “People are talking about it in a way that they have never been able to before.”
The stigma may be dissipating, but there is still an ominous legal cloud hovering over the weed industry. Toronto Police are quick to note that until Prime Minister Trudeau passes these laws to legalize the drug, it is still a controlled substance. The legal grey area surroundng vape lounges only gets murkier with private property laws. While you are not legally allowed to possess marijuana anywhere, you may smoke it on private property. But what does that mean for places like Vape Social and its customers?
“There is no real licensing for a vapor lounge. As it is, you have to get a license under a pre existing business…It’s not an easy business model,” Salter said. He points out vapor lounges have always operated in the grey area of the law by providing a service that is necessary but hasn’t been recognized by government and legislative bodies.
To make things worse for vapor smokers, Ontario just passed a new law banning the use of vaporizers in public places or no smoking zones. Ryan Kelly, a legislative assistant for the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, said the new laws allow the government to allow non-tobacco related products – specifically medical marijuana – to be subject to its “no smoking” provisions.
“Ontario is proposing to strengthen its smoking and vaping laws to better protect Ontarians from second-hand smoke or vapour, whether from a tobacco product or an e-cigarette product, including those that contain medical marijuana,” Kelly said. “These measures are necessary because currently, the SFOA only applies to tobacco, and therefore smoking other products or substances, like medical marijuana, is not captured.”
However, Salter and many other lounge operators and smokers see it differently.
“With a vapor lounge it will effectively make it so that people won’t be able to medicate inside. The problem with that, constitutionally, it’s a violation of our rights as Canadians,” Salter said.
For lounges all over Toronto, vaporizing offers a safe haven for all types of users from casual to chronic. Vape lounges are all about chilling out for a while. The legalization of pot seems to be just around the corner, and you can already smell it from here.