Why are All of Toronto’s Legal Weed Stores Downtown?

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Why are all of Toronto’s legal weed stores downtown? By Tony WongTelevision Critic Jason Miller Cannabis will be available legally at retail stores in Ontario beginning April 1. (TIJANA MARTIN

Why are all of Toronto’s retail cannabis stores in the downtown core?

It’s a question many suburban pot users are asking after the announcement of a fifth retail location at 453 Yonge St., meaning the first five stores poised to open in the city are within walking distance or a very quick transit ride from each other. That leaves no retailers slated for east of Yonge St., west of Bathurst St. or north of the Yorkville neighbourhood.

“This absolutely doesn’t make sense for people living in the suburbs, the industry, or social policy if you want to eliminate the black market dealers,” said Mitchell Osak, managing director of business consulting and technology services at Grant Thornton LLP, which advises players in the emerging cannabis industry. “Complying with the federal and provincial laws is predicated on comprehensive and fair access to the product across the province.”
But Osak said while it doesn’t make sense from a retail strategy in terms of coverage, it will “only be a matter of time before the suburbs get stores.”
From a regulatory point of view, the government is making sure the industry can “walk before they run,” Osak said. “At this point there is only a certain amount of product supply and regulating the first 25 (retail outlets) will have its own learning curve.”
The newly announced store at Yonge and College Sts. is part of the Alberta-based Canna Cabana chain that already has 10 locations. The company was one of the 25 winners that were awarded licences to sell pot at retail locations in Ontario. Five of those licences were allocated to Toronto and six to the surrounding 905 regions.

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