Article by David Rider, Toronto Star
A city committee has endorsed the province’s highly regulated approach to marijuana legislation, despite pleas from dispensary operators and pot users.
The licensing committee voted 4-1 Monday in favour of city staff recommendations endorsing Premier Kathleen Wynne’s plan to sell marijuana only in government run, LCBO-type shops across Ontario after federal legalization takes effect next year.
The vote also endorses a call for Ontario to cover any city costs associated with the end of pot prohibition, and new legislative tools, including stiffer penalties for operators of illegal private shops and possibly businesses where people consume pot. The province wants consumption to be legal only in private homes.
That could mean pot legalization would trigger crackdowns on pot-friendly businesses such as Hot Box, a Kensington Market lounge where people have openly consumed their own marijuana since 2003 — vaping inside, smoking outside — along with medically minded dispensaries and the pot-selling shops that recently proliferated.
“They’ve essentially demonized cannabis,” Abi Hod, Hot Box owner and a director of the Cannabis Friendly Business Association, said of the Liberal government’s plan in a presentation to committee members.
Jodi Emery, a prominent marijuana legalization activist and former Toronto dispensary operator, said the provincial plan sells out people who suffered to end prohibition. She accused the province of listening to big business and law enforcement that will benefit from tightly regulated legalization.
“The city of Toronto has failed their citizens and taxpayers and will continue to fail them if they proceed as suggested at this meeting,” she said.