Canada: Ontario cities already opting out of cannabis retail stores

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The Ontario provincial government has given municipalities until January 22 to decide if they will host cannabis retail shops and some major cities in the Greater Tortonto Area have already made the decision to opt out.

Both Mississauga and Markham decided Wednesday that the cities will not allow for their communities to have retail locations which are expected to begin opening across the province in April. In both cases, the city councils felt there are too many variables and issues that need to be addressed before stores should be allowed to open.

The Mississauga council decided “no” to cannabis stores with a 10-2 vote.  

“The province has not given municipalities any control over where cannabis stores can be located in our city. This is cause for great concern,” Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie wrote in a statement. “As a city, we believe it is important to have input on and control over the type of businesses that operate in our community. Under the current model, it would take less time for a cannabis retail store to be approved than any other business.”

She did say however, that the city may change its mind and decide to opt in to cannabis retail stores later on if the overall consensus of the city changes in favour of doing so.

The Markham council also opted out of retail sales with a 12-1 vote.

“It’s just really the concerns we’ve heard from our residents saying that municipalities have control where these (retail locations) can be placed,” said Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti.

“We heard concerns from parents saying these can show up in a neighbourhood plaza, because we can’t stop them from setting up, or anywhere in the community. Potentially, you could have an indoor playground area and potentially a cannabis store next door. The potential exposure … they didn’t want to have them in Markham.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory, however, is planning to push council toward allowing retail stores in the city. Despite having some concerns about safety, he believes that not allowing legal retail stores will only further encourage the already existing illegal market. 

“I think to say no would…do us out of quite a lot of money, millions of dollars,” in funds that would be given to municipalities who choose to opt in to having legal retail cannabis stores, Tory told sources on Wednesday.

“I think it is better for us to opt in because it leaves less control in the hands of organized crime and other people who presently control that market, but better that we should have a degree of ability to regulate it to a closer extent so that we can protect neighbourhoods and families.”

Toronto city council will decide Thursday if they will allow retail stores or not. 

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