Pubdate: Wed, 14 Jun 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Betsy Powell
Page: GT2


Due to this 'concern,' mayor won't back board of health position on

Mayor John Tory is refusing to join growing calls for Ottawa to
immediately decriminalize pot as the federal government prepares to
legalize and regulate marijuana next summer.

"My concern is not with that. I mean to me, I very much favour, as
soon as possible, the notion that people should not have a criminal
record for simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. That's
something that should have been done years ago," he said Tuesday.

What's of "much more concern" is the rise in the number of rogue pot
shops in Toronto a year after the city's first crackdown resulted in
dozens of arrests and charges, Tory said.

"They are proliferating again in the city. They're in stable
neighbourhoods and causing disruptions to families in my view and
disruption to other retailers," he said.

"That is not something that has been legalized or contemplated as
legalized. The federal government has said nothing about having some
wide network of shops on every street corner pop up to sell marijuana."

Municipal licensing and standards staff estimate there are currently
60 outlets selling weed in the city. The lowest number has been 37.

"It's a constant ebb and flow. Some shut down. Some get closed down.
Some relocate. We've always known this would be a constant battle for
us and as long as there's that type of money to be made, these
operations are not just going to go quietly away," said Mark Sraga,
director of investigation services.

Tory, a member of the police services board, stopped short of calling
for another crackdown.

"I am hopeful that our authorities will decide on their own just
because the law is being disregarded, to go out there and enforce the
law, but I don't direct them to do that. I'm simply indicating my own
concern as the mayor of the city."

He said residents don't want politicians telling police or city staff
when or how to enforce the law - despite the fact that he wrote to
licensing staff a year ago asking that "whatever enforcement
mechanisms" be used to shut down the pot dispensaries.

Councillor Joe Mihevc said it's unfortunate Tory is focusing his
attention on pot shops - which he called a "municipal nuisance" - when
criminalization is far more damaging.

Mihevc chairs the board of health which this week voted to ask the
federal government to decriminalize pot now so that having a small
amount of pot would not be a crime.

"Once you get caught up with small amounts of marijuana in your
pocket, dragged into courts, then you have a criminal record, you
can't go over the border, all the things that happen. Now we have an
opportunity to do one year less than that," Mihevc said Tuesday.

Proponents say immediate decriminalization would help remove thousands
of minor pot charges from the overburdened criminal justice system.

According to the federal NDP, 15,000 people, including 7,000 under 25,
have been arrested for pot possession in Canada since Prime Minister
Justin Trudeau announced his plans to legalize.

The Liberals have given no indication they will change anything
pending legislation set to go into force in July 2018.

"I'd love to see the mayor advocate on behalf of the 15,000 Canadians
who ... have been charged in a relatively short period of time for
simple possession," for a product that will be legal next year, Mihevc
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