Pubdate: Sat, 14 Apr 2018
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The Toronto Star
Author: Allan Woods


MONTREAL-In the rush to marijuana legalization, cities across the
country are harnessing their limited powers to delay the opening of
retail pot stores, dictate where they can operate or ban them
outright-at least temporarily.

There was uproar from Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Toronto
District School Board after finding out the city's first retail
cannabis store would open just 450 metres from a school, in a strip
mall where students often eat lunch.

But it's the scenario many local politicians are fighting to

Some have passed motions and zoning changes suggesting appropriate
locations for provincially run Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation
(OCRC) stores. Others, such as Markham, have asked that their
territories be passed over as the agency sets up its inaugural pot

Oakville city council passed a motion asking the Ontario government
not to open a cannabis store this summer, as planned, so that they can
figure out the most appropriate location for a store. This, after it
was learned officials were scouting a spot less than one kilometre
from a high school which was already a problem area, known for
loitering and late-night drinking, said Councillor Tom Adams.

"We haven't heard back," he said of the requested delay.

"They are out looking for a location but we're not informed exactly
what they're up to or which locations they prefer ... We're on the
receiving end of all this. We have no regulatory power."

The OCRC announced this week that its first four Ontario stores will
be located in Guelph, Kingston, Thunder Bay and Toronto. The agency, a
subsidiary of the LCBO, plans to open an initial 40 stores this
summer, eventually expanding to 150 stores.

Based on its population, that could mean up to five retail cannabis
stores opening in the city of London. The calculation prompted city
council to adopt recommendations for the province that shops be at
least 500 metres from schools, libraries and arenas and not located on
"main street environments" where loitering is more common and may hide
drug-selling activities.

The province is not bound to respect the city's wishes, but officials
have shown a willingness to work within the constraints, said London
chief planner John Fleming. He said specific zoning changes for retail
marijuana shops are also coming that would apply if the Ontario
government opens up cannabis to private retailers in the future.

"We're all moving through this together for the first time and there's
a lot of uncertainty. If we can all take a fairly conservative
approach to start things out and observe and understand how these
operate, then maybe some of the policy concerns and regulations can be
relaxed in the future," Fleming said.

Quebec, which has the same provincially run retail model as Ontario,
has yet to identify the locations for its cannabis outlets, but the
Union des municipalites du Quebec has recommended that pot shops be
kept out of poor or troubled neighbourhoods.

"The example of lottery gaming machines run by a government agency
that we find most frequently in disadvantaged neighbourhoods should
absolutely not be reproduced in this case," the association said.

The town of Granby, Que., introduced zoning regulations this week in a
motion that would restrict retail cannabis sales to one commercial
area next to a liquor store and grocery.

"It's far from any school, from any problems of that sort," Granby
Mayor Pascal Bonin explained at a council meeting.

The Manitoba government, which will issue retail licences to private
companies, have given its cities and towns the choice to prohibit
sales in their territories. Most have permitted retail sales. Some,
like the town council in Gimli, opted out, saying it didn't have
enough information from the province.

But it's British Columbia where municipalities are using the full
power of their bylaws to slow down the rush to legalization. The
province has decided to allow a mix of government-run and private
cannabis retailers, but many cities banned the sale and distribution
of legal pot on their territory through zoning changes.

"It was a bit of a safeguard to make sure that municipalities wouldn't
be in a situation of having a new form of legal retail store that
wasn't accounted for in a zoning bylaw and then could in theory open
up in any place where a retail use was permitted," said Sara Dubinsky,
a Vancouver lawyer who specializes in bylaw enforcement and cannabis

In the mountain resort town of Revelstoke, council banned pot shops
because there was too little information about the municipal
obligations and impacts of the new retail regime.

At the same time, they were being bombarded by inquiries from
entrepreneurs seeking an opening in a new market, said Nigel
Whitehead, the town's director of development services.

"We want to give our department and our community some breathing space
to be able to see exactly what regulations are coming down from the
province ... and then give ourselves a bit of time to develop those
regulations to best fit our community," he said.

The town council in Tofino, a popular Vancouver Island tourist
destination, was also initially inclined to outlaw retail pot stores.
There are fears about cannabis tourism and that their small retail
sector being taken over by pot shops, said Mayor Josie Osborne.

They have since changed course and decided to do the intensive work
necessary to pass appropriate zoning rules in time for the adoption of
the federal law.

"We're not here to say 'you can't drink alcohol' or 'you can't take
cannabis.' It's just that we need to ensure the community's interests
are met first and foremost," she said.

"In a town like Tofino, which is so small, if you use a combination of
buffers and zoning you effectively do limit the number of stores that
you could have."

But many others across Canada are bracing for trouble as the country
races toward marijuana legalization feeling they have limited
information or preparation, said Brantford Mayor Chris Friel, who
chaired the Association of Municipalities of Ontario's task force on
legalized marijuana.

"The provinces don't know what the regulations are going to be or how
it's ultimately going to play out. We're going to have two or three
years of confusion until we start to play this out
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