Toronto Municipal Licensing & Standards releases recommendations for cannabis legalization

The report recommends that city staff endorse the Province of Ontario's plans and that City Council request the Province to work with the city the Toronto Police Service

The City of Toronto's division of Municipal Licensing & Standards (ML&S) released their recommendations to the city for cannabis legalization today. The announcement includes support for Ontario's own announcement last Friday for their plans for an LCBO-run retail cannabis system, both in stores and online.

Staff say they have put together a working group to identify municipal concerns with the implementation of cannabis legalization, including Municipal Licensing and Standards, Toronto Public Health, City Planning, Toronto, Fire Services, Toronto Building, Corporate Finance, Toronto Police Service, City Manager's Office, Economic Development and Culture, and Legal Services.

According to the report, the Board of Health (BOH) adopted recommendations for the provincial and federal governments to consider as they develop and finalize legislation to legalize cannabis. They agree with the province's approach to managing distribution and sales through a publicly-operated retail model as being the best model to carefully manage and oversee the new program.

The staff report says that 139 illegal storefronts have closed since spring of 2016, and investigations have resulted in 121 charges against property owners, 276 charges against business owners, and 214 charges against employees, for a total of 611 charges to date.

In the report, the Executive Director of Toronto's Municipal Licensing & Standards recommends that city staff endorse the Province of Ontario's plans and that City Council request the Province to work with the city the Toronto Police Service to develop "appropriate enforcement strategies," including "provincially funded and/or provided enforcement" to support efforts to eliminate illegal cannabis sales. It also recommends the city ensure it is properly funded to manage this and other aspects of legalization.

In order to deal with unlicensed retail cannabis stores, ML&S also recommends increased fines and penalties for illegal cannabis sales and increased police authority to shut illegal businesses down.

The report also notes that ML&S was tasked with looking into how to manage the proliferation of illegal dispensaries over a year ago and has been studying the issue extensively. Despite enacting various inspection and enforcement approaches, including seeking court injunctions to close dispensaries down, the ML&S says approximately 60 businesses remain open.

The staff report says that 139 illegal storefronts have closed since spring of 2016, and investigations have resulted in 121 charges against property owners, 276 charges against business owners, and 214 charges against employees, for a total of 611 charges to date.

City staff have also engaged with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) to discuss their concerns with legalization. The FCM is scheduled to present to the Standing Committee on Health this week to discuss legalization and municipal issues, and has put out a Cannabis Legalization Primer to help municipalities manage cannabis legalization at the local level, looking at issues like bylaws, zoning and business practices, among other things.

Concerns with the cost of managing legalization are common among municipalities in Canada, with the bulk of enforcement expected to come at the local level, especially in relation to existing illegal retail stores in major cities like Toronto. Mark Pugash, spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service, said Monday that the city doesn't have the resources to close all the city's dispensaries.

Staff recommendations for retail stores include distance requirements between stores, schools, etc, no stores on college campuses and the implementation of a staff training program similar to SmartServe for alcohol retailers. The City also urges the province to look at how smoking restrictions can and would be enforced in public spaces.

The full document can be read here.

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2 comments

  1. Maxcatski Reply

    All I want is for cannabis to be treated on an equal basis with alcohol and tobacco. Even though cannabis is much less harmful. Please allow me to smoke a joint in public - because I'm going to do it anyway. I have been doing it for years. And I was hoping that legalization might actually change something. Nope, not so far. Prohibition 2.0 is in full swing. Set my people free!

  2. Ryan Langkamer Reply

    It bothers me that Toronto is so proud of all the innocent folks they have rounded up, arrested and charged, stealing their medical assets and resources, but we never hear about how many convictions actually result from these time and money wasting Projects, or Operations !?
    Why doesn't Lift provide those stats, so we can be fully informed, Lifted Up as it were !?
    I be.ieve a majority of charges are thrown out of court, stayed or downcharged.