Cannabis Friendly Business Association Says it’s Time for Toronto to Regulate, not Fine, Dispensaries

In a CBC interview, Cannabis Friendly Business Association spokesperson Lisa Campbell said the City of Toronto needs to rethink its approach to dispensaries.

With officials announcing that bylaw infraction tickets may cost dispensaries up to $50,000, Campbell said the city needs to realize these businesses aren’t going away and refocus its resources to help regulate the industry.

“We’re approaching 200 dispensaries across the city so, united as businesses, we’re looking for regulation so we can operate responsibly,” said Campbell. “We need action from the City of Toronto and John Tory has said he’s going to take action in the form of fines, unfortunately that’s really penalizing these businesses that aren’t harming any Canadians.

“We’re hoping that instead of just issuing arbitrary fines of $50,000 for these businesses that they’ll actually take the time to consult with communities and come up with effective regulations similar to other cities in Canada, like Vancouver and also Victoria.”

Campbell said the demand for these businesses are here, with over half a million adult Torontonians using cannabis and a strong message from recent court rulings that have found in favour of medical dispensaries.

“Our current medical mariajuana program has been ruled completely unconstitutional for Canadians,” Campbell said. “Canadians are looking for change and dispensaries are a part of that.”

In a letter to city staff to begin the process of investigating dispensaries in the city, mayor Tory said the “speed with which these storefronts are proliferating, and the concentration of dispensaries in some areas of our city, is alarming.”

Toronto director of licensing and standards Mark Sraga has also said that there’s health concerns about edibles being sold at many of the dispensaries.

“There is a health and safety concern where people are perhaps purchasing and ingesting products that they have no way of knowing the quality of what they are in fact consuming,” said Sraga.

Campbell said there’s no proof of any danger posed by the city’s dispensaries.

“Cannabis is a much less harmful substance than tobacco or alcohol so, when it comes to regulating dispensaries, we’re hoping that we can come up with responsible regulation for the future adult use market,” she said.

Campbell said that, similar to restrictions in Vancouver and Victoria that restrict dispensary locations, some rules need to be put in place to oversee where these businesses can operate, but that any rules also need to keep in mind the needs of the communities.

“I think it’s reasonable to have declustering regulations, municipally, for dispensaries but we also have to recognize that there are neighbourhoods in Toronto where there are more dispensaries concentrated, like Kensginton Market, which are kind of green zones,” said Campbell. “They’re kind of areas that people gather to enjoy cannabis and, I think, depending not he neighbourhood, there might be different regulations needed.”