Legalization of Cannabis: What Does This Mean For Restaurants? Guest blog by Louise McMullen

Despite cannabis becoming legal on October 17, 2018 I’m predicting that going out with friends and drinking will still be a common occurrence. At least until foods infused with THC become legal. It will probably be a year after legalization of cannabis before ‘edibles’ will become legal and once that is allowed it will be interesting to see the legislation with regards ‘edibles’ and how the food industry will change after that happens.

“This will be a $5 to $6 billion industry with cannabis, so that will put more pressure on consumer spending and it could come out of the restaurant pool,” says Robert Carter, executive director of the NDP Group in Toronto. “[Millennials] represent the largest share of restaurant consumers today…so even if a small percentage are diverting their spending from restaurants to cannabis, it will impact business.”[1]

After legalization many restaurants think they’ll see more local, munchie-laden customers, as well so there is an expectation of higher sales, probably later in the evening, even in the weed-free restaurants.  Probably the new marijuana laws will change the restaurants in that they will do a lot more take-out or delivery.

Some people are predicting that people will stay home more but I doubt that. People are mostly social by nature. I do think that alcohol sales will probably drop while people are trying out ‘legalization’. When Colorado legalized cannabis some restaurateurs say they experienced a 2%-4% decline in alcohol sales. It is assumed that this is because customers are coming into the restaurant already “buzzed”. This study was from September.

I’m betting that there will be a few marijuana cafés pop up and they will have fewer tables/space than what a casual dining restaurant will have.  They will probably be located in more residential areas where neighbours can walk instead of driving since even if you smoke one joint you are considered impaired.  

Over the years, while cannabis has been illegal, many people have learned to cook with it. Some cook for medicinal reasons and some just for recreational purposes. There have been many recreational users who plan events of home-held dinners where the dinner guests are served a number of pot-laced, gourmet courses throughout the evening.

Quite often the host wants guests to feel in control of how much or how little they’d like to use. And usually the guest is staying for a while or the host pays for cab fare or has the guests spend the night.  It has been noted that THC sauces are often served on the side at the High Society Supper Club where a series of multicourse private dinner events are held in Hamilton and Toronto.

Also, many chefs are entering the world of the pop-up dinner party. It is in these temporary “pop-up” spaces that chefs are not only infusing but also accentuating and pairing food with weed — even down to the strain of the plant. The pop-up dinners take place on private property, with waiver contracts and quite often pre-event ticketing.

Chef Andrea Drummer, located in Los Angelas, where cannabis is now legal, has events that occur at a different venue each time, with multi-course themes. Drummer pays special attention to the weed strains, pairing them with food by infusing butters, oils, terpenes and more. Every course is an organic cannabis dosage of 5 to 15 mg with four courses totalling 50 mg. The dinner runs $200 U.S. or more per person with the option to BYOB. She sells tickets for her events through

Available by private booking, Christopher Sayegh, known as the Herbal Chef, is also based in Los Angeles. He is willing to travel anywhere to cater your private event, so long as you pay for his travel costs. The number of courses is customizable to your event, which will cost upward of $200 per person. Wine pairings are available as well. Each guest is required to join Sayegh's weed collective, which provides the cannabis used to infuse each course. Guests are also given a questionnaire to complete to help the chef prepare for dietary restrictions. At the end of 2018 Sayegh is opening Herb, his cannabis tasting menu restaurant in Santa Monica. The restaurant will offer three-, five- and 10-course seaonsal menus with a Middle Eastern bent, packaged with rideshares and even hotel stays.

Maybe cannabis cooking classes could come in handy for consumers. In the U.S. many are cropping up with a BYOW (bring your own weed) to class. In these classes there are often discussions on how to pair flavours, how to make infusions, how to control the dosage and how to make four recipes. Quite often these types of hands-on classes also lets you take home what you make, for the ultimate doggy bag. Average prices for these classes cost around $125 per person and last three hours.

There was buzz (no pun intended!) back in April about Second Cup eyeing the marijuana market by turning some of their stores into dispensaries and pot lounges but they will have to get federally licenced by the government to sell cannabis. And as of October 17, 2019 they still wouldn’t be allowed to sell edibles.

In Colorado concept restaurants that serve edibles have sprung up and they only offer one or two selections. Lots of little specialty restaurants are starting to pop up, as well. These restaurants would rarely have people coming in without reservations. 

“It’s going to take years before cannabis is accepted as commonplace as alcohol is, where you can talk about it freely, consume it without judgement from people and where people get over the novelty of it being so available.” – Chad Finkelstein, Dale & Lessmann

“Low-dose edibles are the next opportunity for the cannabis industry,” Nielsen said. “These products are going to be marketed to a lot of different kinds of users. There needs to be education. Curious folks who may be hedonists with certain drugs that they know, like alcohol, may be trying cannabis. Younger people are going to come of age at a time when the stigmas have started dissolving.”

I predict it’s going to be a kind of “wild west” for a few years.

[1] FoodService and Hospitality, September 2018. FYI, Dine In Or Smoke Out? Pg. 5