one plant toronto

Kensington Market residents fight back against huge marijuana retail chain

A fierce wave of backlash is once again cresting upon Toronto's notoriously gentrification-averse Kensington Market as a corporately-owned weed chain attempts to take over a vacant 1950s-era grocery store.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario's website currently shows an active application for a new cannabis store called "One Plant Kensington Market" at 241 Augusta Ave. (former home of the Fairland Supermarket and once the attempted home of a massive bar called Liquor Donuts).

Minority-owned by the cannabis cultivation giant Aleafia Health Inc. as part of a joint venture with the Serruya Family (of Yogen Fruz and Second Cup fame), One Plant is described for investors as a "major retail operation" with plans of opening 20 stores across Ontario and eventually more throughout Canada.

Three of the chain's proposed stores (in Barrie, Ottawa and Stouffville) have already passed through the AGCO's public notice period and are awaiting their final approvals to open.

The store proposed for Kensington Market, however, remains very much subject to objections from the public until December 18... and locals know it.

"How do you feel about a giant corporate cannabis superstore in the heart of Kensington Market?" wrote an administrator of the Friends of Kensington Market Facebook group in a public post on Friday, including a link for the AGCO objection submissions site.

"I don't want corporate anything in Kensington, I want my damn bakery and meat shop back," replied one commenter.

"Ugh, this is so insulting to Kensington and our history of independent retailers and activists... Screw Fantino's shitty corporate weed monster," wrote another, referencing one-time Toronto Police Chief and politician Julian Fantino, who sits as chairman on Aleafia Health's board of directors.

More troubling to some than the idea of a retail chain entering Kensington is the perceived unfairness of allowing One Plant to sell weed, but not the legendary Hot Box Cafe.

Veteran cannabis advocate Abi Roach has twice lost the province's much-criticized "cannabis lottery," leaving her unable to even apply for a permit to sell marijuana.

Torontonians far and wide have decried the government for snubbing Hotbox Cafe, which opened in 2000, but to no avail.

This makes the proposed location for One Plant Kensington Market all the more insulting, as it falls almost directly across the street from Roach's store at 204 Augusta Ave.

"That's Julian Fantino's company. No wonder Hot Box is being overlooked for 'big box'," commented one Kensington resident on Facebook. "Abi has been a tireless advocate for years and a go-to for education."

"How incredibly insulting to the hotbox and Kensingron Market as a whole," wrote another.

"With rents skyrocketing and owners closing up, to place such a huge store and overlook the hotbox is unacceptable to the area. Ruining the market piece by piece."

It is of note that neither Aleafia nor the Serruya family actually won the cannabis allocation lottery for this location.

Rather, the retail license winner for 241 Augusta Ave. in Ontario's second cannabis lottery is listed as Postmedia account executive Jason Krulicki.

Like any other lottery winner, Krulicki has the right to partner with any brand or company he likes to manage his store.

An executive assistant to Serruya Private Equity told the Ottawa Citizen last month that lottery winner Ethan Stark, who recently won the right to open a store in Barrhaven, had signed an agreement with One Plant to have the latter company provide "retail know how and management expertise."

The address listed on Stark's winning lottery application will open as a One Plant-branded cannabis retail store as soon as the AGCO completes its final inspections, which could be as early as tomorrow.

Lead photo by

Venetia Butler

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