Newmarket gets its first-ever Cannabis Store, despite town's ban
Store opens in defiance of the Town of Newmarket opting out of retail cannabis outlets, police investigating.
Newmarket now has its first-ever retail cannabis location, but authorities say it is operating illegally.
Newmarket Smokes Out opened at the plaza at 17817 Leslie St. Oct. 20, offering 24-hour service and deals on its cannabis, despite the fact the Town of Newmarket opted out of having retail cannabis stores operate within its boundaries.
The units in the plaza are condominiums, with each business independently owning them. Chris Murray, who owns a business there and is a member of the condo board, said some business owners have asked about the legitimacy of the business, but he does not know much about it.
“The government legalized (cannabis), and I think it’s up to the towns to make the choice,” he said. “If we’ve got something here that is outside the town bylaws, are the bylaws enforceable? And if they are, then why is the place still running?”
When Canada legalized cannabis in 2018, and retail stores were permitted in the months to follow, Ontario said municipalities could opt in or out of allowing retail cannabis stores. While some neighbouring communities like Aurora and Bradford opted to allow the stores, Newmarket council decided in January 2019 not to allow retail cannabis by a 7-2 vote.
The Town of Newmarket confirmed to NewmarketToday that the store opened illegally, and that York Regional Police is actively investigating, with the town's bylaw enforcement unit supporting that.
Newmarket Mayor John Taylor stands by the decision to disallow retail cannabis stores in Newmarket. He said the issue is zoning since locations for the store are decided by the provincial government and not municipalities who have opted in.
“The Town of Newmarket continues to strongly stand behind its position that we will not consider the allowance of cannabis stores in Newmarket until the provincial legislation is changed to give us planning control on the locations and numbers of stores in Newmarket,” Taylor said. “If we allow cannabis stores, a provincial agency could approve eight stores on Main Street, and we would have no grounds upon which to object. I do not think anyone would see that as a positive outcome.”
But despite the law, the new store is openly defying Newmarket’s decision, with a sign-out front and some efforts made to pass business cards out.
A nearby store owner, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they witnessed York Regional Police attempting to enter the store last week, banging on the door for 45 minutes, without the store opening. The business has a secure door system, requiring customers to buzz in before allowing them in, with windows covered not allowing a glimpse into the store from the outside.
“I have no issue with cannabis stores, other than the fact Newmarket has not allowed them, so you’re operating illegally,” the store owner said.”If you don’t have anything to hide, you shouldn’t have any reason to not open your door.”
They are concerned the business is open 24 hours, and takes cash payments only.
But not everyone is concerned by the store's opening. Dion Vrdolijak of nearby Dion Dentist Studio said he is neutral about it.
“I don’t really care. It doesn’t really bother me,” he said. “It’s up to them to take it up with the town.”
Newmarket resident Brandon Burella stopped to check out the new cannabis store and spoke positively about one appearing in town.
“It’s about time,” he said. “I can see both sides, why they would (allow retail cannabis) and would not. It’s just the convenience, I guess. It’s closer.”
NewmarketToday did not receive a reply to a request for comment from the owner of the store before publication time.
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