toronto dispensary opt out

Toronto neighbourhoods might be able to ban cannabis dispensaries

Should each of Toronto's 25 different wards have different rules when it comes to selling marijuana?

Councilllor Jim Karygiannis of Scarborough-Agincourt certainly thinks so, and he'll be introducing a motion to that effect tomorrow at City Hall.

"During the recent municipal election, my constituents told me that they did not want marijuana dispensaries in their neighbourhood," said Karygiannis in a release via his website this week. "They believe that marijuana dispensaries will negatively impact our community."

City council is already set to debate whether or not cannabis should be sold in Toronto at all, thanks to the provincial government's last-minute Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act. 

Bill 36—passed just two days after recreational marijuana became legal in Canada—gives every municipality a chance to "opt-out" of allowing weed stores to operate within city limits. The choice can be made only once and must be registered with the province by January 22.

Cities that do choose to opt-out will remain dry, so to speak, when provincially-licensed private cannabis retail stores open across Ontario in April of 2019.

Residents of those cities would, of course, still be allowed to consume marijuana in this case, as it is legal to do so at the federal level. They'd just have to buy all of it online through the government's own Ontario Cannabis Store...or illegally.

Between March 2016 and November 2018, 1,260 charges laid against Toronto pot shop owners/employees, with 548 convictions. For something that was on its way to becoming legal.

Toronto's own City Manager recommended in a report this week that the city does not opt-out, arguing that prohibiting cannabis stores "would limit Toronto residents' access to legal and government-regulated recreational cannabis" and force people to turn elsewhere.

"It is anticipated that prohibiting legal cannabis retail stores would have the unintended consequence of encouraging the illegal market to continue to operate," reads the report, "either through storefronts selling illegal products or by driving illegal cannabis sales underground."

Should members of City Council agree, brick-and-mortar weed stores will open in Toronto as planned come April 1.

What Karygiannis wants, however, is for individual wards to have an opt-out option of their own.

"If municipalities are permitted to 'opt-out', then Wards, which are the size of many of these municipalities, should also have that option." he wrote on his website. "When it comes to dispensing marijuana, I believe that Councillors should listen to their constituents."

Mayor John Tory, meanwhile, has stated that, while he supports cannabis retail stores in Toronto, he wants the city to have as much control over how they're run as possible.

"While I don't believe saying 'no' to cannabis retail stores in our city is a practical position," said Tory in a statement on Monday, "we should be maximizing safety and the protection of children and neighbourhoods from any negative effects that may come about as a result of these stores."

Lead photo by

Lauren O'Neil

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