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Jon Liedtke is a passionate guy. Over the phone from his home in Windsor, Ontario, his voice rarely dips below an excited tone. For anyone close to cannabis, he’s easy to like. A man with equal parts charm and knowledge, Liedtke can hold a room, which is a fitting trait for the owner of the world’s largest vape lounge. 

Over the last two-and-half years, Liedtke has turned Higher Limits into an institution. An aesthetic marvel, the lounge has welcomed 85,000 patrons since opening its doors, and serves daily as a centrifugal force in Windsor’s cannabis community. Patrons can rent equipment and accessories and consume safely in the lounge, while enjoying board and video games and other activities.

It wasn’t long ago, however, that Liedtke’s dream of providing cannabis patients a safe place to medicate came under provincial scrutiny. Under the previous government’s proposed Smoke Free Ontario Act, Higher Limits was on the brink of being shut down, though Liedtke says he had no plans of closing his doors.

“I was being put in a position where I had to balance two competing legislations: the Ontario Human Rights Act and the Smoke Free Ontario Act,” he says. “My plan was also to stay open because I don’t believe I have the right to tell someone where they can consume their medication.”  

Following a recent changing of the guard in the Ontario legislature, Liedtke is back to the status quo that existed at Higher Limits before implementation of the Smoke Free Ontario Act. Existing in a legal grey zone that may again be repealed when the Canadian Cannabis Act is introduced in October, Liedtke is confident his model will have a place in the new space. 

While government could be using the lounges for both supplying cannabis and educating the public, Liedtke says he isn’t planning to add those components to his business model any time soon.
“There is a real need for the Government of Canada to realize that they need to not only be able to sell cannabis, but people need a place to be able to consume it,” says Liedtke. “I would love to be able to purchase cannabis from the OCS (Ontario Cannabis Store) and sell that directly to my patrons.” 

As Canada looks to welcome the legalization of recreational cannabis this fall, Liedtke questions whether the provinces have properly prepared for reforms the federal government suggested it would realize years ago. In Ontario, Liedtke points out, there will only be 40 OCS stores to service a little over a third of the entire country. 

Still, Liedtke’s optimism remains high. At Higher Limits, patrons continue to pile in daily, as its affable owner dreams of welcoming the 7.5 million American cannabis consumers that live within three hours of his lounge. Like many subplots to the legalization of cannabis in Canada, Liedtke can only hope legislation matches his plans. But, even if they don’t, chances are he’ll still have his doors open, and a smile on his face.

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