Pubdate: Tue, 23 Jan 2018
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Jacquie Miller
Page: A1


City asks LCBO to keep cannabis out of disadvantaged districts

As the LCBO scouts the city for places to open cannabis stores, City
of Ottawa planners have asked the agency to avoid neighbourhoods that
are "experiencing socio-economic stress."

Staff declined to elaborate on which neighbourhoods should be
off-limits. But the request raises the question of whether residents
of disadvantaged neighbourhoods should be protected - or excluded,
depending on your point of view - from having a legal cannabis store.

The Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation, a subsidiary of the LCBO, is
asking municipalities for advice as it selects sites for the 40 shops
it plans to open when the federal government legalizes recreational
marijuana. That's expected in July.

The public will get a chance to provide comments once specific sites
are chosen.

The province has set general guidelines for locating the stores, which
will sell only cannabis and accessories. They can't be near schools,
must adhere to municipal zoning bylaws, provide "equitable access" to
customers across the region, and help combat illegal dispensaries,
says the LCBO.

Politicians have suggested government stores might be opened near
illegal pot shops to help run them out of business.

In Ottawa, illegal dispensaries have popped up in areas that are
definitely "experiencing socioeconomic stress," including the east end
of Rideau Street and Montreal Road.

Mark Kaluski, president of the Quartier Vanier BIA, has urged police
to raid illegal shops along Montreal Road, saying merchants don't want
the strip turned into "pot row."

However, a government-run cannabis store would be OK, said Kaluski in
an interview. "If they truly plan on shutting down all the illegal
dispensaries, than having (a legal store) in this area makes sense,
because clearly there is a need for it, there is a market for it. I'd
much rather the controlled, planned distribution of marijuana than
this sort of grey area we've been living in for the last two years.

"If (a shop) came to Montreal Road, and it was regulated and it was
handled properly, I'd be in support of it," Kaluski said. "Presumably
you won't be able to stand outside the LCBO and smoke pot. As long as
proper enforcement is done, then great. Economic activity. Let's do

It's not known how many stores will open in Ottawa initially, but it
won't be many. The province says the first 40 stores will be spread
among 29 municipalities. Plans are to open 80 stores by July 2019 and
150 stores by the end of 2020.

Coun. Mathieu Fleury says his discussions with provincial officials
indicate Ottawa might get three or four stores in July. It might be a
good idea to avoid placing the first stores in struggling
neighbourhoods so as not to "further stigmatize them," Fleury said.
Shopping malls might be a good location, because they have good
security, parking, access to transit and a mix of commercial uses, he

Locating the first shops at malls might also help ease the stigma
around buying cannabis, he said.

In a mall, it's not as obvious which store customers are dropping
into. "There's still the idea of walking down a street, and opening
the door of a weed shop ...

"Maybe we start in the malls, see how (the cannabis stores) are, how
they function."

Fleury said he hopes city council gets a chance to debate the

Coun. Jeff Leiper, who represents Kitchissippi ward, said he trusts
the LCBO to use common sense in locating cannabis stores.

Based on experience in his ward, traditional main streets, away from
parks and schools, could work, he said. Two dispensaries in his ward,
one on Wellington Street and the other on Carling Avenue, caused no
problems in the community, he said. "People didn't really raise an

However, Leiper got complaints about another dispensary that opened
for a few weeks across the street from a playground at the Parkdale

As for whether cannabis stores should be located in economically
vulnerable areas, "that's a much longer conversation we need to have,"
he said.

Leiper predicts only one store will open in Ottawa in

Pot stores will be small compared with liquor stores - about 2,500
square feet, according to the LCBO. There are about 30 LCBO liquor
outlets in Ottawa, averaging 8,000 to 10,000 square feet. The
smallest, at St. Laurent Shopping Centre, is 2,200 square feet.

Coun. Riley Brockington says that if there are only one or two stores,
"the demand will be extreme." He predicts people from rural areas
might travel to Ottawa to buy pot legally. The Cannabis Corp. will
also sell marijuana online.

Brockington said he supports restrictions similar to those pioneered
by Vancouver to control the spread of illegal dispensaries. Vancouver
requires dispensaries to be located away from schools and community
centres, for example, and limits how close they can be to each other
so clusters can't develop.

Brockington said he understands the sentiment behind trying to protect
vulnerable people.

"It's a fair comment that you don't want to make neighbourhoods worse
off. I want to make sure that whatever commercial entity moves in is
actually making the neighbourhood better."

But it is problematic to restrict cannabis stores from some
neighbourhoods, he said. "At what point do we let adults be adults?

"If it's federally legal as of July 1, and it can be sold to adults,
the assumption is that adults can make decisions on their own. Does
the state need to take additional measures to decide which
neighbourhoods are worthy, and which aren't?"
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