Some Ontario Municipalities Push Back Against Retail Cannabis Stores

Article by Jeff Gray and Justin Giovannetti, Globe and Mail

Some Ontario municipalities push back against retail cannabis stores. Marijuana plants grow at LifeLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn., in a June 17, 2015, file photo.

The Ontario government says it will delay opening branches of its new cannabis retail chain in municipalities that object to having them.

A handful of mayors in the Greater Toronto Area have said they do not want a marijuana store in their areas, even though they recognize they are powerless to stop Queen’s Park.

Among them is Dave Barrow of Richmond Hill. His town council has received a deluge of complaints from residents about the province’s plan to open one of the provincially controlled stores in the suburb north of Toronto, and is expected to vote No to it on Monday.

“We have taken a stance of: We are not a willing host,” Mr. Barrow said in an interview. ” … I don’t know that we are going to get anywhere. But we had thousands [of people saying] we don’t want it in our community, we don’t want it near our schools, we don’t want it here and why do we have to have it?”

A spokeswoman for Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa said on Wednesday that the government would not force municipalities to accept stores in the first wave of 40 outlets the province aims to open by July, 2018, when Ottawa legalizes marijuana.

“If a municipality is not prepared to locate a store, the province will defer locating in that municipality,” Jessica Martin, Mr. Sousa’s press secretary, said in an e-mail. “As we roll-out the next phase of stores, we will continue to engage with municipalities on an ongoing basis, including with those municipalities who may not be ready for a store opening in July, 2018. Ultimately, our goal through a controlled model is to ensure a safe and sensible framework for cannabis legalization.”

The e-mailed statement says “municipal engagement is a priority” but does not appear to say municipalities would have anything like a veto over the plan to open 150 stores by 2020.

Richmond Hill received formal notice that the new LCBO-controlled cannabis retail agency had its eye on sites in its jurisdiction in a letter dated Nov. 28. Several municipalities have also been notified.

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