QUEEN’S PARK — Davenport NDP MPP Marit Stiles tabled a bill that would give Ontario’s municipalities a say in the location and distribution of private cannabis stores within their communities.
The NDP pushed for legalization, and continues to support legal, well-regulated retail cannabis sales.
Stiles's bill would strengthen municipalities' role in distributing pot shop licenses locally, to avoid a situation where some neighbourhoods have none while others have a strip of multiple cannabis shops.
“COVID-19 and a lack of government support for small businesses have fundamentally changed our main streets. In many places, cannabis retail outlets have proliferated and replaced the diversity of shops and services that make a strong, varied local economy," Stiles said. “Communities should be able to benefit from legalization without losing the diversity and character of local neighbourhoods, and municipal leaders should have a say in that.”
The Ford government gave municipalities just one chance to opt in or out of cannabis retail. Those that opted in were prevented from making decisions about the location or number of licenses in any area.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario licenses cannabis retail locations. Currently, municipalities can comment on cannabis license applications for a 15-day period. Stiles’ bill would align the cannabis licensing process with that of liquor licensing, allowing municipalities to have a greater say in where, and how many, cannabis licenses can be issued.
“Municipalities have the expertise and the planning knowledge to ensure legal, recreational cannabis is available to Ontarians while maintaining diverse main streets. My bill gives local communities a stronger voice in that discussion,” said Stiles.
"Without adequate supports, small businesses in our community are being forced from their locations. In their place, a surge of new cannabis retailers have filled the gap, leaving our main streets with fewer options and less diversity. Giving the local community more input into the cannabis licensing process through municipal planning departments would ensure there’s room for all types of business as we rebuild our local economy."
- Liza Lukashevsky, Chair of Bloordale
"Without meaningful local input, the current flood of cannabis retail licenses threatens to crowd out grocers, shops, restaurants and venues. Strong neighbourhoods need great diverse main streets. MPP Marit Stiles’ bill makes a simple change to give municipalities a stronger voice in the process and would help ensure our business districts continue to meet the needs of their communities.”
- AnaBela Taborda, Chair, Little Portugal on Dundas BIA
"With the current legislation, we note that the municipality does not have any input or influence in the density for the amount of cannabis retailers that open up in a neighbourhood. Our neighbourhood has seen a sharp influx of these retailers open in the past year. It is critical for the municipalities to have authority and conditions on the number of cannabis locations within a neighbourhood to ensure a healthy and balanced community."
- Meg Marshall, Manager of the Bloorcourt BIA & Antonia Yee, Chair of Bloorcourt BIA
"As a community we have already experienced one wave of clustered illegal dispensaries that left many empty storefronts in their wake. There is no reason why we should not have a cannabis store or two, but it is unreasonable for any community to have to absorb the considerable economic and community safety impact of a large number of such stores within a small geographical area. Giving local communities a greater say in where and how many cannabis shops are concentrated in an area, as this bill seeks to do, would help ensure the character and diversity of neighbourhoods like Kensington Market are protected as we go through a devastating period for local businesses."
- Serena Purdy, Co-chair, Friends of Kensington Market