Toronto Cannabis Community Voice Concerns to City Hall

Toronto’s cannabis community had the chance to speak directly to council yesterday at an open forum organized by councillor Jim Karygiannis.

Karygiannis said the meeting at city hall was an opportunity for those currently in the industry to give their opinion on regulation after the city pushed back a scheduled Jun. 27 hearing to later in the fall.

Karygiannis’s invitations to the mayor and the city’s 43 other councillors were turned down, leaving speakers to voice their concerns to the lone city representative who has previously come forward in support of the businesses.

Cannabis Friendly Business Association director Abi Roach presented a document on behalf of the group calling for cannabis to be regulated like liquor, not tobacco, and suggested that cannabis lounges should be allowed in addition to dispensaries.

“Though we strongly recommend dispensaries as a fantastic avenue of distribution both socially and economically they should not be the only option available to the public,” Roach’s report read. “Our lounges have proved for almost 15 years to be responsible, socially caring environments to their customers and communities.”

Roach said, only by permitting lounges can the City of Toronto solve the issue of public consumption and street distribution of cannabis, issues that will only increase with legalization.

“Other jurisdictions which have already undergone these changes have all reversed their consumption ban decision and have allowed for cannabis consumption facilities and single serve distribution,” the report read, pointing to areas like Spain, Uruguay, the Netherlands and the US.

The CFBA brought forward a list of recommendations for legal cannabis lounges, including mandatory air filtration systems, proper labelling and regular health inspections.

Cannabis Growers of Canada executive director Ian Dawkins said cannabis lounges are a reasonable proposition for Toronto and they’re just as capable of following similar rules put in place for bars and restaurants.

“Numerous other cities around the world have cannabis ‘coffee shops’ or ‘vapour lounges’ that operate in a socially responsible manner, and we see no reason Canada’s cities can’t be the same way,” Dawkins said, pointing to a training program for bud tenders, similar to certification needed by bar servers.

Dawkins said the city needs to talk with the cannabis industry to come up with best practices for regulations.

Karygiannis said his expectations for the meeting were met, with the community getting a chance to speak and offering him the opportunity to learn more about the industry. The councillor also said statements and documents will be recorded and available to other members of city council.

“My colleagues will have a chance to see what was said and done and hopefully when we come back in October maybe we’ll have more education,” he said. “The message I like to give to the community is to get active and make sure that your councillors know your thoughts and your desires.”

Karygiannis said he hopes that when council meets later in the fall to create regulations for the industry they will reflect those thoughts and desires of the community.

“The people that are working for the dispensaries and the people that use dispensaries are grossly misunderstood,” he said. “An education needs to happen to educate the general public that look, the person that goes into this dispensary is your next door neighbour.”

The city’s municipal licensing and standards committee will table a report from staff on cannabis regulation at its meeting in October.