A Scarborough MPP and Toronto Mayor John Tory are asking the provincial government to reconsider how retail cannabis stores are approved in the city.
Aris Babikian, Progressive Conservative MPP for Scarborough-Agincourt, says he’s against approving any such stores in his riding, arguing neighbourhoods across the north of the city are “suffering” due to the “mushrooming of cannabis stores.”
Babikian, store operators at Splendid China Mall and nearby residents sent AGCO hundreds of messages opposing a cannabis store at Splendid China before an applicant, High Tea Cannabis Corp., withdrew its application on Jan. 5.
The MPP — who counted nine store approvals and 41 applications in Scarborough — said he was asking Tory to restrict cannabis stores to industrial areas while he and other PC MPPs in Toronto push to tighten the rules AGCO, a provincial agency, uses to judge applications.
“Many of my colleagues and myself, we are advocating for review,” he said.
Unlike Markham, Toronto didn’t decide to opt out of cannabis stores, but Tory spokesperson Lawvin Hadisi said city council in 2018 asked for power to keep them a minimum distance from schools, youth facilities, community centres and other cannabis stores.
The province, however, left planning and approval of store licences up to itself and the AGCO, Hadisi said.
“The mayor is happy to join MPP Aris Babikian in urging his own government to take a second look at the ground rules for these licences to ensure that our neighbourhoods, and especially young people, are kept safe,” she said.
During a 15-day notice period in December, AGCO received 342 submissions, including a petition signed by mall tenants, against a proposed High Tea Cannabis Co. store at Splendid China, 4675 Steeles Ave. E.
Babikian announced on Jan. 21 that the campaign against the proposal had “paid off.”
Denis Lanoue, president of the Heathwood Ratepayers Association, said he encouraged neighbours south of the mall to file objections.
“Our goal is to improve the quality of life within our Heathwood community,” Lanoue said.
“This application was not in line with that vision.”
On Jan. 24, however, Paul Joo, High Tea’s founder and CEO, stated the company “aims to be a pillar in the communities where we are located and to provide a safe and inclusive space where community members can receive education about cannabis.”