Mississauga City Council may reconsider opting into cannabis stores
Less than a year after Mississauga city council decided to "opt-out" of the provincial retail cannabis model that would allow stores to open in the city to sell legal cannabis, it appears that some are changing their minds.
Ward 2 Councillor Karen Ras has indicated that she intends to move a motion in January to revisit whether Canada's sixth-largest city should now 'opt-in' to the cannabis store model.
Ras initially voted in favour of opting in.
"It's been more than a year since cannabis has been legalized. It is time that Mississauga revisit the issue of opting in. We know that the black market is alive and well and that our residents in the third-largest city in Ontario should not have to travel long distances to buy a legal substance," Ras said in an email to insauga.com.
"We don't regulate where LCBOs are located and the same should apply to cannabis [stores] that already have restrictions on location to sensitive uses and be located in areas that are already zoned commercial/retail. Other municipalities who initially opted out, are opting in. It's time for Mississauga to do the same."
As Mississauga opted out, cities like Brampton and Burlington opted in. Mayor Bonnie Crombie said at the time there were too many 'unknowns’ factoring into council's decision, saying the city had little say where cannabis stores could go. She also reminded people that legal cannabis was still allowed in Mississauga, as purchases can be done online through the Ontario Cannabis Store.
With retail operations opening up in other nearby communities, it appears the mayor has changed her tune, though she disputes recent media reports saying the move stems from concerns over growing illegal cannabis sales.
"I want to be clear that there is no data to suggest that there are more illegal sales of cannabis in Mississauga because the city decided to opt-out of retail cannabis shops. Apps like Weedmaps have been in existence well before the legalization of cannabis. When Mississauga decided to opt-out of retail cannabis stores, we were clear that while we had concerns with the province's model, we may decide to opt-in in the future," Crombie said in an email to insauga.com.
"Our decision was based primarily on the lack of local control provided to cities about where these retail stores will be located. Given the number of unknowns at the time, council decided to proceed with caution. Given that little over a year has passed since legalization, it's an opportunity for us to revisit whether or not retail cannabis stores are a good fit for Mississauga."
"I look forward to supporting Councillor Ras' motion to reopen this topic when she tables it in the new year," she concluded.
So it looks like in 2020 one of the first major issues Mississauga city council will tackle is whether to opt into the cannabis retail model. In some people's minds, perhaps it was prudent to take a 'wait and see' approach and examine how it affected neighbouring Brampton before diving in.
Once a municipality opts in, the province says it cannot opt back out. I will say that regarding Crombie's initial criticism that the city would have no control over where cannabis stores would go, that concern isn’t quite as pressing as some would have residents believe. The argument that retailers would be able to open a store near, say, a school, doesn't really hold water.
Even if an application to open a store near a school or daycare or another sensitive area somehow made its way to council, the public outcry would have been ridiculous. If people get their panties in a bunch over new townhouses being built in their area, imagine how they would respond if a 'weed shop' opened near their child's school?
If you think about it, stores in Mississauga would work well near commercial or industrial areas in the northern part of the city, even though there are pockets of vacant retail space that could be considered as well, providing that they are not in the vicinity of schools or community centres. It makes more sense because cannabis stores would require easy access points for logistical reasons as they need to get the product shipped to them and unloaded conveniently.
Do you think Mississauga should finally opt into cannabis stores in the new year?